Industrial Hemp for a Prosperous Future_Featured_, Environment Friday, September 28th, 2012
The industrial hemp plant is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant with very low levels of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). An environmentally friendly plant requiring little to no pesticides and herbicides, hemp is grown in increasing quantities throughout Europe, in China and in other countries to meet the growing demand for hemp-based products, such as textiles, composite materials, construction supplies, paper products, foods and nutritional supplements.
“Hemp’s excellent fiber can replace virgin timber pulp in paper, glass fibers in construction and automotive composites, and pesticide-intensive cotton in textiles. Because of its huge market potential and high biomass/cellulose content, hemp is an ideal future crop for producing bio-ethanol and bio-plastics.” – Dr. Bronners
The use of hemp is becoming more popular in many types of products because the plant is ideal for fiber production and also is a natural nutritional supplement with vast healing qualities. Hemp is now being used to make thousands of consumer products, including paper, clothing, fabrics, hemp oil, soap, building products, insulation, automobile parts, beauty products, foods, and many more everyday items.
“Among the species studied, the hemp species proved itself to be the best in fiber production. This plant was all the more interesting owing to its low fertilization requirements, and its ability to grow without being irrigated and without chemicals, whether it be for weed or pest control.” – Barriere, et al. 1994
US farmers are keen to find a new alternative to traditional crops as they have been struggling while the US agricultural industry continues to suffer from depleted soils, new competition driven by global trade, crop subsidies, drought, and increases in costs due to raising prices of labor and fuel. For example, economies in Kentucky and North Carolina are experiencing a transition from agriculture to manufacturing and services, which is having a negative impact on tobacco growers in these states. For them, industrial hemp could mean an opportunity for the farming community to renew itself and play a role in the new economy.
“Our farmers need a cash crop, need something to turn to since the great tobacco buyouts, need something to sustain their family farms! And we need industry in Kentucky!” – Katie Moyer, Chair, Kentucky Hemp Coalition
Over 30 industrialized countries are growing hemp as a drug-free crop. Great Britain, France, Switzerland and Spain are currently leading the world in the hemp-building sector, while Australia and Germany are the global leaders in the creation of biodegradable plastics and bio-composites. The US currently imports about $400 million or more worth of hemp annually. The hemp industry in the US is actively seeking government and public support by educating people and offering facts about hemp and its industrial potential, while pointing out that hemp has no intoxicating value as a drug since it contains only minute levels of THC compared with illegal marijuana.