Considering that, at the moment, changing the rules seems to be impossible, then one needs to finds an alternative solution. This must have been the spirit in which EIHA, the European Industrial Hemp Association, announced at its annual conference the launch of the Novel Food Consortium, which received approval by a large majority.
The background to all this, is that the association has long contested to the European Union the fact that it considers CBD as a Novel Food, i.e. one of those foods that were not consumed to a significant extent in the EU before May 15, 1997 and which would, therefore, require special procedures to be deemed as marketable. The point of view of the EIHA is that, since hemp has been used as a food for thousands of years, it is certainly not possible to wake up in 2020 and consider it as a Novel Food. And instead, that’s exactly what happened. In 2019 hemp leaves and flowers and extracts derived from those parts of plants – including CBD – were included in the Novel Food catalogue. And guess what? Registering a single product as Novel Food in Europe would cost, according to the EIHA, between 350.000 and 500.000 Euros. Hence, part of the Consortium’s strategy is to create a single Novel Food application that will cover a wide range of food products and hemp extracts, including those containing CBD.
Depending on their size, companies will be able to join the Novel Food Consortium with rates ranging from 15.000 to 140.000 euros. The fees will increase over time, which gives the initial founding members preferential membership rates, according to EIHA. The consortium, which will be a separate entity but wholly owned by the Association, will invest up to €3.5 million over the next two to three years.
During the announcement at the annual conference, Daniel Kruse, EIHA’s president, underlined that the only chance European hemp farmers have is to bear together the enormous costs of the required toxicological studies and the lengthy procedure that await, which would not be convenient for one company alone.
A negative feedback on the initiative came from Richard Rose, a llfe-long cannabis activist and one of the world’s first divulgators of the food properties of hemp, who, living in Italy, closely follows developments in the European industry. His stance is that those who join the EIHA’s Novel Food consortium would basically be buying the right to a monopoly, instead of opening it to everyone. According to Rose, the best way would be to pressure or sue the European Union, since CBD has been consumed for millennia in hemp seed oil. But, of course, that would not only benefit EIHA’s members, but instead it would serve everyone involved in the industry. In addition, the contract with the participants allows the EIHA to offer all the advantages to Big Pharma. Basically, a Novel Food consortium membership would boil down to a perpetual blank cheque for EIHA.