25 Oct 2016

Hemp industry ready for law change

6:56 am on 25 October 2016

New Zealand and Australia are out-of-step with many other countries around the world by not allowing the sale of hemp seed food products, the hemp industry says.

Ministers from New Zealand and Australia, including Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew, will be meeting next month and a renewed proposal to allow the sale of food derived from hemp seeds could be on their agenda.

hemp milk in measuring cup with seeds

Photo: 123rf

Hemp milk is made by crushing the seeds and mixing them with water.

The Hemp Farm chief executive Dave Jordan said it could be used in just the same way as ordinary milk.

"You can use it in anything, cereals, you can use it in your coffee. In some countries when you buy hemp milk, it's mixed with other things like almond or vanilla or whatever they put in it to make it taste good for the consumer.

"A lot of people like it just as it is - it's a little bit bland completely on its own."

Mr Jordan said hemp seeds had no transfats or cholesterol and were high in Omega 3, and their uses weren't limited to milk. "You can use the hemp seed for milk, cheese, butter, beer, wine - you name it, we can do it."

But the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation has rejected two previous attempts by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand to change rules which ban the sale of hemp seed food, like hemp milk, on both sides of the Tasman.

While hemp is a species of cannabis plant, it doesn't have the psychoactive properties of marijuana because it contains none, or only very low levels, of the psychoactive substance THC.

The food standard authority is satisfied low-THC hemp seed foods are safe for consumption and have nutritional benefits.

Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew

Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew said science showed hemp seed was safe to eat. Photo: Radio NZ / Alexander Robertson

If the ministers do decide to allow their sale, the treasurer of the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association, Richard Barge, said producers were ready to scale up and cash in.

"The industry has the infrastructure to be able to grow and harvest and clean and store the seed, and convert it into food products already.

"All our food technologists and food industry should be very excited about the opportunities that the downstream effect of this raw material supply will create," he said.

Hemp is a sustainable crop to grow and its other benefits, especially in terms of helping mitigate carbon dioxide emissions, are only just beginning to be understood, Mr Barge said.

"It will be treated as just another arable crop and it should be treated that way. It's a legitimate crop, grown under licence issued by the Ministry of Health, so it's a controlled, regulated industry. We're ready to go."

In a statement, Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew said New Zealand supported the sale of hemp seed food products.

She said the best science showed hemp seed was safe to eat and had positive nutritional properties.

Ms Goodhew said she was hopeful the ministerial forum could make progress on the issue soon.

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