If hearing the word hemp makes you shift in your chair, here’s a good reason not to. Hemp is hardly the enemy. In fact, looking back at its history shows hemp has long been a darling of humankind and for many reasons.
The first hemp crop planted in North America was back in the 1600’s. It was a vital crop because it provided both food and fiber for clothing.
British immigrants to Canada were given free seeds and free land by the king in the 1800’s and further south, American farmers were required by law to grow hemp. Some of it became the very paper the Declaration of Independence was drafted on1. Yes, it was. The irony of the present situation is hard to ignore and it offers, in the least, food for thought…
Romanticized details aside, hemp is a crop with many uses in today’s day to day life, according to Health Canada. Fiber from industrial hemp (a tall, leafy variety with a very low content of the psychoactive substance THC or delta-4-tetrahydrocannobinol) can be used in making paper, textiles, rope or twine, construction materials while the grain has multiple uses as well in food, cosmetics, plastics and biofuel2.
It is no wonder that the contentious crop faced many back and forth decisions over the years. Industrial hemp is a high-yielding, fast growing crop that requires very little help with weed control and naturally resisting to most pests. As one of the oldest domesticated plants (roots expanding well into the Neolithic Age in China3,) hemp is as hardy as it is useful4.
Yet cultivation of this seemingly wonder crop that could address many of today’s big problems one of which is overproduction and overuse of plastic items and the ugly set of consequences to follow, such as the big ocean patches composed of various plastic bits, is still a matter of debate in many parts of the world including the US.
According to a detailed report5 published by David West, PhD, of the North America Industrial Hemp Council, industrial hemp is not a drug but just what the name says: a crop with multiple solid uses in various industrial and commercial sectors.
While the debate will still go on for a while, here are some things you should know about hemp products.
- Hemp seeds have a well-balanced content of healthy oils and a high content of protein1, so feel free to sprinkle them on cereal and salads.
- Hemp fiber is stronger than cotton, more resistant to mildew, naturally resistant to UV light and durable. Nowadays you can add stylish to hemp textiles and eco-conscious, if you care to call it as it is.
- Natural, clean cosmetics employ hemp as a main ingredient. Lack of pesticide during cultivation as well as its great healthy oil profile make it easy to understand why.
- Hemp paper making requires less bleach and leaves many a forest intact
- Last but not least, hemp plastic rivals the petroleum-derived products in sturdiness, but with far fewer deleterious side health and environmental effects. In fact, it would be just to call it bioplastic for those reasons. Fully recyclable and biodegradable, hemp bioplastic is already being used by the automotive, packaging and building industries6 with a newly growing market in everyday domestic use around the house.
The way we see it, hemp could solve many of today’s complicate environmental and human health issues. In a world that is more chemically-loaded than ethically acceptable, solutions that require lots of work, imagination and determination to do it right by generations to come should be embraced wholeheartedly.
- Manitoba Harvest: Hemp history http://manitobaharvest.com/about_hemp/9804/Hemp-History.html
- Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/substancontrol/hemp-chanvre/about-apropos/faq/index-eng.php#a9
- An argument for hemp growing http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashoka/2013/05/29/industrial-hemp-a-win-win-for-the-economy-and-the-environment/
- Hemp Facts http://www.naihc.org/hemp_information/hemp_facts.html
- More hemp facts http://www.votehemp.com/PDF/myths_facts.pdf
- Bioplastic http://hempwaterbottles.tripod.com/what-is-hemp-plastic.html