The industrial hemp industry has exploded in recent years, fueled largely by the worldwide popularity of hemp-derived CBD and the passing of the 2018 U.S Farm Bill. Together these two catalysts in combination with the purported health benefits of CBD are projected to take the hemp industry to over $13 billion by the year 2026. A gold rush that companies such as Next Green Wave, Inc. (Next Green Wave, NGW:CSE | NXGWF:OTCQX) have already taken advantage of.
While the US Hemp and CBD industry is staged for exponential growth, the crop’s future as a growing agricultural and consumer goods sector has been slowed down by a recent European Commission Ruling on the use of hemp (and by association CBD) in food products.
European Commission Ruling on Hemp
In January of 2019, the European Commission ruled hemp and cannabinoid products derived from it to be a novel food. According to the European Commission, a novel food is one that was not historically eaten or otherwise consumed on the Europen continent prior to 1997, when the first novel food was added.
Some novel foods on this list include new sources of vitamin K, such as that found in Krill from Antarctica, foods from developing countries such as chia seeds, and foods that now are subjected to new manufacturing techniques, such as UV radiation to purify milk, bread, mushrooms, and yeast.
Now everyone can now buy Krill oil from their local retailer and add chia seeds into their protein smoothies. Consumers can also reap the health and safety benefits of treating foods known to contain dangerous bacteria with UV radiation in order to purify them before selling to consumers. In hindsight, many of these foods may seem ridiculous to be on a “novel foods” list, and yet there they remain.
However, when these foods first came to market they were unknown. The European Union has this list in place in order to protect their customers by ensuring these foods are safe for use, correctly marked, and nutritionally advantageous.
What Does All This Mean for Hemp?
The European Union is now claiming that hemp does not have a known presence or widespread use on the continent prior to 1997 and is, therefore, a novel plant.
However, hemp’s assignment to this category is not a permanent one. In addition, this list is not a legally binding contract, but does represent a list that many Members of the European Union adhere to. This means that a number of European Union Members may limit or prevent the availability of CBD and hemp-infused foodstuffs and additives until further testing that clears hemp to be an approved novel food.
Getting Hemp Approved as a Novel Food
The first step in this process is being taken by Cannabis Pharma s.r.o. They are conducting a test that will be examined by the European Food Standards Agency that, if successful, may allow hemp products to be deemed acceptable on the novel foods list within seven months of completion of the test.
In addition, once hemp is ruled to be an acceptable novel food, products containing cannabinoids will be labeled according to daily use and other standards required by the European Union. Until this is completed, those in the European Union market for CBD products such as the consumers, producers, and manufacturers may experience interference in obtaining CBD products whether that is to purchase for personal use as a consumer, or to sell as a retailer.
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) Fights Back
The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) is also desperately trying to fight this ruling on the ground level. In July, the Association reached out to their 300 members to try to rally them together to fight the oppressive European Union restriction. They argue that the new regulations hurt mostly the small and medium businesses which in turn would pave the road for the larger corporations to monopolize the market as they are the ones who can afford to engage in a battle with the novel foods catalog.
The EIHA has asked their members in every country to research hemp, “in their native languages,” in order to provide evidence that it has in fact been a part of the history of Europe prior to 1997. In their message to their members, the EIHA wrote, “We know there is a colorful and rich history of hemp flowers and leaves in hemp food, nation by nation, and region by region.” They are hoping that by producing these historical documents they will be able to overturn the European Union’s classification of hemp and the products derived from it as novel foods that are unsafe to the population pending further testing.
The EIHA is also trying to persuade the European Union to change their classification of hemp from 0.2% THC to 0.3% THC like what is found in both North America and Asia. This would reduce the limitations that Europe faces compared to their North American and Asian counterparts when making hemp products with traces of THC.
European companies have seen the income possibilities that hemp farming is becoming in North America with the growth of American and Canadian companies and would like to join their counterparts in this venture. German Dusseldorf hemp food, clothing, and cosmetic company owner, Kruse, said “We are talking about additional income for farmers and new jobs for the working class.”