Written by Jessica Goddard
The decision to allow manufacturers to produce hemp seed for human consumption in Australia has been pushed back to January 2015.
The Council of Australian Governments’ National Forum on Food Regulation delayed the decision until next year, citing concerns that producing hemp seed food would send ‘mixed messages’ over drug use.
Hemp is similar in structure to cannabis, but lacks the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While it is legal to grow hemp in Australia, it is not currently licensed for use in human foodstuffs.
Hemp seed food consumption is legal in many countries, including the USA where is is part of a multi-million dollar ‘super-foods’ industry. Hemp seeds are high in protein, easily produced; and can be manufactured into either oil or flour.
However, current labelling laws state that products containing hemp must be clearly labeled for ‘topical use only’ in Australia.
Hemp seeds are also a particularly water efficient crop, making them an attractive option for Australia’s drought-stricken food production industry.
A tonne of washed hemp currently nets producers around $3000 AUD – more then many traditionally grown grains.
Tasmanian hemp producers are expanding production despite the current hemp seed food restrictions – but they fear missing out the financial benefits on a growing industry. Hemp Australia Pty Ltd: Tasmania’s only commercial producer of food-grade hemp products will expand it’s production area to 200 hectares in the coming months.
Hemp industry advocates estimate that the Tasmanian market could expand ten-fold, should the decision to allow hemp seed in foodstuffs be finalised soon.
Hemp industry spokesperson Brandt Teale was quoted in The Advocate as stating “Tasmania can sell as much hemp oil and hemp seed as it can grow”.
Hemp seed foods provide a safe complete protein (and a viable soy alternative) for vegans in milled or flour form. One tablespoon of hemp oil contains the entire recommended daily intake of essential fatty acids; including linolenic 18:3 (Omega 3).