Come to terms with industrial hemp

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile and eco-friendly crops available

I RECENTLY visited an industrial hemp production factory on the NSW North Coast. Now don’t jump to any conclusions! There was nothing illegal about it.

Like most people, I had previously thought 'illicit drugs' when I heard the words 'hemp' or 'cannabis'. It is actually not the case.

To minimise confusion, I will use the term 'industrial hemp' - and it is not the same as 'marijuana'.

Industrial hemp plant varieties can be grown with minimum psychoactive constituents (THC) and, therefore, they are not capable of being used as recreational drugs.

Industrial hemp is cultivated worldwide, including in Australia and New Zealand (under strict licensing arrangements), and you may not be aware but it's currently used in Australia as a source of fibre, material production and building products.

The factory I visited produces industrial hemp seed-based food and fibre products. The food derived from industrial hemp seeds is exported and sold for human consumption in most overseas countries including the US, Canada, Japan and the EU, but not here in Australia.

In Australia these products can only be sold for 'topical' use, that is, for external use only.

Lifting the prohibition of industrial hemp seeds as a food in Australia could result in significant benefits for Australian farmers, adding value to crops and increasing food processing opportunities for local companies, while providing substantial health benefits for Australian consumers.

Industrial hemp is one of the most versatile and eco-friendly crops available. Numerous biodegradable products can be made from it, including textiles, building materials, paper, a range of composite materials and fuel.

It grows without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides and is a great rotation crop.

With an increasing demand for protein-rich foods, legalising industrial hemp seed as food offers Australian primary producers and manufacturers the opportunity to participate in the growing international demand for 'super foods', of which the industrial hemp seed is a 'super hero'.

Industrial hemp seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense. I am told they contain vitamins D3, E and A, cholesterol-fighting phytosterols and are one of only a few sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid thought to be responsible for much of the anti-inflammatory properties that make industrial hemp seed oil popular with people suffering arthritis and eczema.

The Canadian industrial hemp industry was founded in 1998 with support of the Canadian Government. Since then, cultivation, manufacturing and export of its products has been steadily growing as domestic and international demand rises.

In 2011, Canadian industrial hemp seed production was approximately 15,500 tonnes, with an estimated gross revenue of between $30 to $34 million for farmers; while in the US, the total retail value of industrial hemp products exceeded $500 million in 2012.

In 2012, in response to application A1039 to legalise low THC industrial hemp as food, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) recommended that industrial hemp be approved as a food source.

The FSANZ report stated that it was satisfied that low (<0.3 per cent) THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol) industrial hemp foods are safe for consumption when they contain no more than the specified maximum THC levels of 10mg/kg in food.

Yet State and Territory politicians and their officials are still arguing the toss.

There seems to be a lack of information and a misunderstanding of the differences between the high THC marijuana and industrial hemp which is inhibiting the discussion on lifting the ban on the production of industrial hemp seeds as a food source in Australia.

Joel Fitzgibbon

Joel Fitzgibbon

is Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry & Rural Affairs and the MP for Hunter
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


26/01/2015 9:32:43 AM

I eat hemp seeds dail for it health benefits. It's tasty and full of omega oils and nutrients lacking in our depleted western diets. The psychoactive THC is only activated if heated. Australian are not using this plant for the correct reasons. This is a medical miracle and needs to be used in agriculture as it is a wonderful crop for farmers to grow. The law is doing very sick children a disservice as the oils are wonderful for epliepsy, cancer and ADHD etc.... It a wonder herb that is wasted.
Friend of MM
26/01/2015 9:40:47 PM

This herb is vital for the treatment of intractable epilepsy where pharmaceuticals are failing and leaving devastating side effects on very young children. There are no clinical trials needed as the results in other countries are overwhelmingly positive. Parents of children who suffer intractable forms of epilepsy will attest to this. Let's get this industry regulated and start to see the magical powers it has in treating a multitude of illnesses.
Chick Olsson
27/01/2015 6:35:41 AM

Great article Joel.
27/01/2015 11:56:06 AM

Joel, can you help the children in Australia who desperately need the oil. what do we need to do to help you with this Lori
angry australian
27/01/2015 12:57:17 PM

Finally Joel! Well done, an article about what government, maybe yours , can do for the country. Now if we can get you out of NSW and into some of the rest of Australia, you may make a viable alternative Ag Minister.
Friend of MM
28/01/2015 6:43:59 AM

I congratulate you Joel Fitzgibbon. I was a staunch liberal party voter but I will quickly change my allegiance if the Labour Party is prepared to legalise medicinal hemp as I know what it will do for many sick Australians and it will win you votes as this issue is uppermost in the minds of many as has been evidenced in several online polls. Get dr Katelaris on board. His knowledge of this herb is extensive and he sees just what the capabilities of this plant are. Don't wait any longer as children are dying when they could live happy and fulfilling lives.
28/01/2015 2:40:26 PM

If industrial hemp is not drug related why does it have to be grown 'under strict licensing arrangements'? Other non drug related crops we grow eg.cereals,corn,potatoes etc etc don't require a licence.Is there something you are not telling us Joel?
29/01/2015 2:58:46 PM

Friend of MM,Fitzgibbon has made no mention of medicinal hemp,he is talking industrial hemp.There is a difference.
29/01/2015 7:46:18 PM

My 2 year old daughter has intractable epilepsy and has been on an industrial hemp derived CBD rich resin for nearly 4 months now. The previous medications did not work, left her a zombie and possibly effected some brain damage for all we know. 1ml/day or 180mg of CBD and the seizures have gone from 30-50/day down to around 5. This plant has miraculous healing properties.
Jason Blake
29/01/2015 8:01:35 PM

About time. I mean you were a Principle of a School, guess it wasn't Agri-Business related. Also how can a plant which GOD or Nature what ever your preference - created. Yet Pharmo's can sell products made from Chemicals. It is only crime if you do harm to another Human or property, otherwise it is mere regulation & extortion to arrest someone & force them to pay for were there was no victim or crime. Legalise all organic matter for Human use.
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Out of the shadowShadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon aims to put ag policy under the microscope. Based in the NSW Hunter Valley, Joel also has a unique perspective on the tensions between primary production and mining development.


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