New Zealand is the last country in the world to make nutritious hemp a legally consumable food, promoter Cameron Sims says, and New Zealanders are missing out on a powerful source of nutrition.
Mr Sims began a company, Plant Culture in 2016, to market and sell hemp seed products. He says it is the most nutritious seed on the planet and is extremely versatile.
He tells Nine to Noon's Kathryn Ryan that it's a superfood.
"Hemp seed's been eaten for thousands of years," he says.
"Hemp seed has more Omega 3 per 100 grams than tuna, has more protein than steak, and more iron as well than steak per 100 grams, more dietary fibre than oats and over 100 percent of your daily magnesium intake in just three tablespoons.
"Hemp when you first try it is unique. I've been playing round and I've really found some amazing ways these days to use it. There's different types of hemp seed products, so you've got hulled seed which has got the husk taken off, that's my favourite, it looks like a white sesame seed and it's really soft.
"Most people say pine nuts, pumpkin seed, sesame seed. It's a very unique flavour but it's delicious and everyone loves it, even babies."
He says the oil, which was made legal for consumable in New Zealand in 2006, is tasty and best used as a savoury or sweet garnish.
"Jamie Oliver uses oil on his ice cream … don't fry with it - it's got a low smoke point and Omega 3 starts to break down at about 50 degrees."
However, old laws are still hampering the hemp production industry in New Zealand.
Although the food standards code has been changed, more changes are required to the Food Act, Misuse of Drugs Act, and Medicines Act in NZ legislation to make consuming the seeds legal – currently it’s just the oil.
"Because of the fact that it's cannabis, the law has taken a while to be updated … to educate Kiwis that it's a different variety of cannabis - it's a non-psychoactive variety - and it's just taken the government a long while to be able to figure out how to do that."
"Hemp seed protein and byproducts of hemp seed are still considered animal food."
He says it absolutely is safe to eat.
"David Bennett, the food minister in April 2017, said that hemp seed is safe and nutritious for human consumption.
"This is when Australia and New Zealand were looking at finally updating the law and at that point they said it would be November 2017. Australia went ahead and updated it, so now all hemp seed foods are legal in Australia."
He says New Zealand is the last country in the world where consuming industrial hemp as food is still illegal.
"Most likely due to our election, it was pushed back [in New Zealand] and they said next year November … I've heard it's more likely going to be February after New Years' now."
He says recent changes from the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Authority to allow the seeds had some discrepancies, and it’s unclear how far they apply.
“There wasn’t any consistency with the fact that New Zealand made hemp seed oil legal for human consumption in 2006 but Australia never did.”
He also wants the leaf and other byproducts to be made legal for use.
Regardless of the delays in the law around food use, Mr Sims says the New Zealand industry is pushing ahead with hemp production.
"In the last couple years New Zealand's probably grown about 200 to 400 hectares of hemp but I know it's probably up to about 600 to 1000 potentially this year. New Zealand's really gearing up for it at the moment.
"Hemp is the only resource on earth that can feed you, clothe you, house you and heal you, however due to legislation in New Zealand at the moment we can only harvest the seed and the stalk and there's rules around how we can sell that.
"Right now we're getting about $4000 to $5000 a hectare with a good yield.
"The infrastructure and the industry doesn't exist yet here to process the rest of the plant. It's a matter of companies investing in a niche part of the resource that they can see a market for."
Hemp seed freezer fudge
Cameron says freezer fudge is one example of a healthy, plant-based food made from the seed.
"You make a hemp butter, you whizz that up in a food processor, add some hemp oil to really thin it down and then mix it with some honey, some vanilla extract, some salt and you can either use some cacao butter if you want it to set hard or coconut oil if you want it to melt in your mouth.
"Mix that in a bowl and then you pour that into an ice tray, pop that in the freezer and about half an hour later it'll be ready to go.
"It's a really quick dessert treat. I love it, it's really fun."