British Sugar – a subsidiary of Associated British Foods – has signed a deal to grow cannabis plants for GW Pharmaceuticals.
The marijuana plants – which are of a non-psychoactive variety – are for use in GW’s experimental childhood epilepsy treatment called Epidiolex.
The drug is derived from compounds in the cannabis plant and has performed well in final-stage trials.
The first seedlings will be planted in January with the first harvest in April. There are expected to be three crops a year.
An 18-hectare greenhouse in Norfolk will provide enough of the raw crop a year to treat 40,000 children globally.
“This new era for our horticultural business uses all we have learned to date to further build this value stream for British Sugar and to benefit the pharmaceutical industry,” said Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar.