After an ongoing campaign, low-THC hemp seeds have finally been deemed fit for human consumption and hemp seed based foods are now approved for sale in Australia and New Zealand, effective as of 12 November 2017. Prior to this approval Australia and New Zealand were the only western countries that banned hemp in food form! This is despite the fact that across Europe, Canada and the US, hemp seeds have been widely enjoyed in food and oil form for many years and have been proven to be a highly nutritious and sustainable food.
It is astounding how hemp seed food products have previously been so restricted in Australia and New Zealand, but their association with marijuana meant they were demonised - falling under a classification that prohibits all species of cannabis from being added to food. However, you can’t get ‘high’ from the hemp foods now approved to be sold in Australia as they are too low in the hallucinogenic substance THC (delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid associated with the psychoactive properties of marijuana.
Policy makers were previously concerned that consuming hemp seed products would mean that levels of THC would show up in road-side drug tests but this has been found to be nearly impossible. Confident with the safety and low hallucinogenic properties, consumption of hemp food products will soon be legal in Australia and New Zealand following the agreement that was reached between New Zealand and Australian food safety authorities at the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide in April 2017.
Although the change in legislation for edible hemp products has not come into effect yet in Australia and New Zealand, some organic stores in these countries have been selling edible forms of hemp seed products for some time, but labels market them as body oils or scrubs (chocolate bars) to avoid legalities. With the change in legislation, hemp seed food products will be more widely available and the many nutritional benefits can be experienced by more people looking for healthy, natural foods
Hemp seeds contain vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fatty acids and, according to associate Professor in Nutritional Science at University of Canberra Dr Duane Mellor, they offer a great source of protein and vegetarian source of Omega 3.
The protein content in hemp seeds comprises 25% of their calories, which is even better than flax-seeds and chia seeds that only provide about 16–18%. Containing magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, three tablespoons of hemp seeds can provide up to 50% of the recommended daily required consumption of many important minerals.
Used as crushed seed, flour, oil or protein powder, hemp seeds can easily be incorporated into a variety of recipes to reap the nutritional benefits.
The Hemp Industry
Hemp is cultivated worldwide, and is currently used in Australia and New Zealand as a source of fibre for clothing and building products. A versatile and eco-friendly substance, hemp has been used in medicine, paper, clothing, building materials, fuel and, in most countries, as a nutritious food. Hemp products are even being incorporated into automotive innovations with BMW currently experimenting with using hemp in biodegradable plastic for dashboards and fittings.
Through legalising the sale of hemp seed based foods in Australia and New Zealand, the hemp industry is expected to quadruple in the next few years. Australian industry leaders hail the decision as a boon for Australians who will reap the economic, environmental and health benefits that these new products will bring to the market.
A Help For Farmers
Hemp is said to be a useful ‘agronomic tool’ being fast-growing, needing little water and helping with weed resistance through its aggressive rooting structure. This means less herbicides are needed and greater yields can be produced benefitting the farmers, consumers and the environment!
Farmers say the approval of hemp food products will create new job opportunities in farming as well as increase sustainability and reduce the use of chemicals.
From a health, agricultural, economic and environmental perspective, Hemp ticks all the boxes and we are really looking forward to 12 November 2017 where we can see the nutritional benefits of hemp seed based foods become more widely spread,