The potentials of hemp
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), representative of the European hemp industry, took a clear position on the future of Europe after the Coronavirus crisis, by releasing the Hemp Manifesto for a Green Recovery, on April 21st, 2020. The world is facing an unprecedented situation today. All aspects of life will be subject to profound change, if not radical mutation. The current pandemic has the potential to change the world order forever, bringing with it new social, health, political and economic models that will influence the next generations’ future.
This manifesto aims to suggest an approach to enable the exploitation of the the hemp plant’s full potential, in all its components. Hemp is a fast, highly bio-degradable and multi-purpose crop, and it can be very valuable to speed up the transition to a sustainable and “zero emission” bio-economy. In this sense, EIHA aligns with the guidelines of the European Green New Deal proposed by pan-European political movement DiEM25. Beyond preconceptions, hemp can become an ally of a green economic recovery. The proposed solutions are sustainable, innovative and concrete, and the European industrial hemp sector is ready to be a catalyst of this change.
The proposals advanced by EIHA
- Public policies should promote the use of hemp in food, feed and manufactured products and finance the development of sustainable value chains. Member States should make use of the right to assign shares of European funding to circumscribed interventions to promote the hemp sector. Moreover, institutions should also implement the use of designations of origin and protected geographical indications.
- Encouraging the recognition of the hemp plant’s environmental contribution and the use of hemp as a carbon capturing crop. Europe should simplify the new greening measures for hemp growers, and implement incentives for environmentally friendly technologies and products. Hemp farmers should receive compensation for positive “environmental externalities”.
- Member States should not apply drug control legislation to hemp and hemp products, as long as these respect the limits set for THC content. As far as industrial hemp goes, the plant and its derivatives should fall outside the scope of international drug controls.
- Raising the maximum permitted THC level from 0.2% to 0.3%. This would gradually align the European sector with international standards and encourage breeding cultivars that meet both consumer trends and farmers’ needs and practices.
- Operators should be allowed to use all parts of the plant – including flowers and leaves – and market any type of product, subject to THC content limits. Some EU countries still forbid the sale of flowers. If operators could market all parts of the plant, they would reduce waste and maximize value. This translates into increased incomes for farmers and other involved operators.
- Removing hemp preparations with a natural cannabinoid content from the ‘novel food’ category. Hemp has always been an integral part of the human diet. There is no health risk and therefore no health justification for restricting EU consumers’ access to hemp products. (Find here our coverage of this particular battle conducted by the EIHA).
- Establishing ess restrictive guidance values for THC in food and feed. The evaluation by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on THC intake through hemp-based foods does not meet scientific standards. Hence, a new assessment should be based on values established scientifically by prominent markets (e.g. Canada, USA, Switzerland) and promote fair competition opportunities for the European hemp industry.
- All raw materials derived from hemp should be allowed as ingredients for cosmetics. The EU Commission considers that some hemp-based products used in cosmetics fall under narcotics control measures. Since industrial hemp is not a narcotic, the cosmetics ingredients database should be modified accordingly. There is no reason to restrict the use of natural cannabinoids in cosmetics, if synthetic ones are authorised.
- The EU should enhance and promote the use of hemp fibers for the production of short and long fibers for textile products and promote the creation of sustainable value chains. After WWII, European countries have switched from natural fibers carbon-based synthetic ones, because these are cheaper. Since then, almost all hemp fiber disintegration plants ended up closing. It is now vital to rebuild the supply chain in Europe and avoid relocation. Institutions should encourage the first processing of fiber through specific financial aid and professional training. The specific objectives of R&D policy should aim at improving genotypes for textile purposes, the technical side of productions, and yarn quality.
- Encouraging he use of building materials derived from the plant in both the public and private sectors, with clear objectives for the total or partial replacement of other less sustainable alternatives.
Finally, the EU should set more rigorous conditions in public procurement, and targets for achieving zero emissions. Consumers and operators should obtain tangible economic benefits from the use of such goods.