Hemp is emerging as one of the most rapidly growing agricultural and industrial markets in decades.
EIHA says hemp important role in the Green Deal
Lorenza Romanese, Managing Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and keynote speaker at Agri-TechE’s Farmer to Pharma event, explains:
“The production of hemp is carbon negative, which means it absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere during its growth than is emitted by the equipment used to harvest, process and transport it.
“We can also use the whole plant and that is the beauty of this crop, nothing need go to waste! Hemp is an important and wholly under-utilised raw material with tremendous potential.”
The EIHA represents the common interests of hemp farmers, producers and traders working with hemp fibres, shives, seeds, leaves and cannabinoids. Lorenza believes that the crop can make a significant contribution to the EU Green Deal.
The European Green Deal provides an action plan to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy, restore biodiversity and cut pollution.
Many uses of industrial hemp
All parts of the plant – stalks, seeds, flowers and leaves – can be harvested and processed, making hemp a versatile plant with multiple uses. This means that a single crop has the potential to produce a wide range of products, including biomaterials, cosmetics, feed, food and supplements. Recently hemp has been investigated as a possible source for plastic production, and it seems that it is indeed a valid raw material in the production of PLA (a type of ‘bioplastic’, which are derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugar cane).
However, exploitation of this valuable crop remains uncertain due to the association of hemp with varieties of cannabis that are high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), such as adult-use or medical cannabis.
Breakthrough ruling – CBD is a food
A recent breakthrough has been an announcement by the health services of the European Commission that CBD can be qualified as food (and not as a narcotic, as the Commission had stated in a preliminary conclusion dated from June 2020).
EIHA has long maintained that hemp flowers, leaves and extracts have been consumed as food for centuries and that the so-called “low-THC” varieties, defined as industrial hemp, have always contained cannabidiol (CBD).
Lorenza says EIHA have welcomed this development: “This clarification will certainly help, in practical terms, it means that hemp operators will finally be able to market their products in a clear legal framework.
“Legal uncertainty is preventing the European hemp sector from developing and exploiting the potential benefits of the plant, which is why clear and stable regulation is needed. It will boost investments in R&D and enable the creation of new jobs and market opportunities.”
Towards a legal framework
The EIHA is working to create a more logical and consistent framework for regulating the sector. It is advocating the following changes:
- The increasing of THC levels on the field to 0.3 % in the 2021 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) review. It has been endorsed by the European Parliament, but it has not yet been officially approved by the other institutions.
- Higher THC limits in food – (Click here for more information on the topic)
- Validation by the FSA (UK) and EFSA (EU) of EIHA Consortium’s Novel Food Applications.
- Lift the ban on flowers and include them as an approved ingredient in the Cosmetics Ingredients Catalogue, a document which lists all the substances authorised for use in cosmetics in Europe.
Lorenza Romanese is Managing Director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA). She deals with the upper part of the hemp plant (seeds, leaves and flower) and is in charge of the policy dossiers, THC in food and feed, Novel Food, and Cosmetics Ingredients (CosIng).
In 2018 industrial hemp was grown on 48,259 hectares across the EU.