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European Commission highlights importance of Hemp in sustainability and creates specific page



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Photo: DR

The European Commission launched a specific page for industrial hemp, highlighting that “hemp production offers ample opportunities for farmers, industrial sectors and consumers in the European Union”, in addition to its environmental benefits and its importance for sustainability. Hemp cultivation in Europe has increased by 75% in recent years. 

The recently created page states that “hemp is a crop grown throughout Europe” and that, in recent years, the area devoted to its cultivation “has increased significantly in the EU, from 19.970 hectares (ha) in 2015 to 34.960 ha. in 2019 (an increase of 75%). In the same period, hemp production increased from 94.120 tons to 152.820 tons (increase of 62,4%).

France is the largest producer of hemp, accounting for over 70% of EU production, followed by the Netherlands (10%) and Austria (4%).

The page also highlights that “hemp cultivation contributes to the objectives of the 'European Ecological Pact' and that hemp has several environmental benefits, including:

carbon storage
One hectare of hemp captures 9 to 15 tonnes of CO2, similar to the amount sequestered by a young forest, but takes just five months to grow;

Break the disease cycle
Hemp helps break the disease cycle when used in crop rotation. Also, weeds cannot grow due to the fast growth and shading ability of hemp plants;

Prevention of soil erosion
Dense hemp leaves become a natural ground cover, reducing water loss and protecting against soil erosion. Hemp covers the soil just three weeks after germination;

The flowering cycle usually occurs between July and September, coinciding with the lack of pollen production from other crops. Hemp produces large amounts of pollen. It also provides shelter for birds and hemp seeds are a food for animals;

Low or no pesticide use
Hemp is susceptible to few pests, due to the lack of natural predators, which means that the use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides can be avoided in most cases;

Hemp plantation near Aveiro. Photo: Laura Ramos | cannareporter

The EU page also makes reference to the different uses of hemp, highlighting its role in sustainability and its importance in complying with the European Green Deal.

1. Textile industry (hemp fiber)
Hemp fiber is a sustainable raw material for the textile industry. It is very similar to linen and the textile industry is increasingly interested in the use of hemp fiber. The European Commission, in its action plan for the circular economy, considers the textile sector as one of the pillars of the transition to a greener and more sustainable economy and has encouraged stakeholders to look for new materials and new economic models. To this end, the Commission will propose a EU global strategy for sustainable textiles, with the aim of creating a more sustainable, innovative and circular economic model.

2. Food and feed (hemp seeds)
Hemp seeds contain high levels of protein and considerable amounts of fiber, vitamins, omega-3s and minerals. As a result, hulled hemp seeds serve as food for human consumption, while whole hemp seeds are used as animal feed.

3. Construction (hemp fiber)
There are three main hemp-based products used in construction: hemp concrete (LHC), hemp wool and fiberglass insulation. The construction sector is responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of GHG emissions (greenhouse gases), with 75% of this energy going to waste. This has led to a search for construction practices and materials that are carbon dioxide neutral or carbon sequestrant. Hemp cement is a carbon sink as the amount of carbon stored in the material is greater than the emissions generated during its production and it continues to store carbon for the life of the building. Improving energy efficiency in the construction sector will play a key role in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, an objective defined in the European Green Deal. Hemp can play a significant role in achieving this goal. Lime and hemp concrete, hemp wool and fiber board insulation are used in the construction sector because of their energy efficient properties.

4. Paper production (hemp fiber)
There are multiple advantages to using hemp fiber to make paper: hemp stalks only take five months to mature, hemp paper does not necessarily require toxic bleaching chemicals, and hemp paper can be recycled seven to eight times. Hemp fiber paper is a more sustainable alternative to paper made from wood pulp.

5. Other uses
Hemp-derived products are used in different industries and for different purposes. The negative environmental effects of plastic have prompted manufacturers to look for alternatives. Hemp is a good choice, given its light weight and durability. As a substitute for plastic, hemp-derived products are used in different sectors such as automobile manufacturing, railways, aviation and aerospace. Other uses of hemp include cosmetics (oils, lotions, shampoos, etc.) and energy production (biofuels). There is also interest in the production and marketing of cannabidiol (CBD), a substance present in the hemp plant, due to its multiple uses in cosmetics, health and food. In November 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union determined that the commercialization of legally produced CBD is permitted by EU legislation.

EU definition and provisions on hemp
Hemp (Cannabis sativa Linn) is a species of the Cannabaceae family in which the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content is very low, in accordance with the provisions of the common agricultural policy (CAP). Hemp is grown primarily for its industrial use and there are 75 different varieties of hemp registered in the EU catalogue. Due to the very low level of THC, hemp that complies with the provisions of the CAP is not used for the production of narcotics.

According to Article 189 of EU Regulation 1308/2013, all hemp imports are currently subject to an import license requirement.

– raw real hemp falling within CN code 5302 10 must have a THC content of not more than 0,2%;
– hemp seed intended for sowing must be accompanied by proof that the THC content of the variety in question does not exceed 0,2%;
– hemp seeds not used for sowing can only be imported with authorization from EU countries and authorized importers must provide proof that the seeds have been placed under conditions that exclude use for sowing;
– EU countries can also apply more restrictive rules in line with EU treaties and international obligations.

Support available for hemp farmers available in the CAP
Farmers who grow hemp are eligible for direct area-based payments under the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). Farmers must comply with the standard eligibility conditions for direct payments, as well as the additional requirements specific to hemp, ensuring that no illicit crop receives any support from the CAP.

  • The cultivated hemp variety must have a THC content of less than 0,2%.
  • Farmers must use certified seed from varieties listed in the EU Common Variety Catalog of Agricultural Plant Species. There are 75 different varieties of hemp registered in this catalogue.

EU countries may decide to grant, under certain conditions, associated voluntary support (VCS) to farmers who grow hemp. VCS for hemp is currently implemented in France, Poland and Romania. Hemp growers can also benefit from support implemented through rural development measures available under the second pillar of the CAP. The relevant types of support are designed to facilitate investments, knowledge building, business start-ups, innovation, supply chain organization, organic farming, environmental protection and climate action.

Expert committees and groups
O committee for the common organization of agricultural markets it meets regularly to discuss issues such as developments in market prices, production and trade in the EU and third countries. The Committee also assists the Commission in adopting implementing acts.

O civil dialogue group on arable crops covering the cotton, flax and hemp sectors allows the Commission to maintain a regular dialogue with interested parties on all issues related to fiber crops, including hemp.

Legal Basis

EU Regulation 1307/2013 – laying down rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes under the common agricultural policy.

EU Regulation 1308/2013 – establishing a common organization of the market in agricultural products.

EU Delegated Regulation 639/2014 – which establishes the requirement to use certified seeds of varieties listed in the 'Common Catalog of Varieties of Agricultural Plant Species'

EU Implementing Regulation 809/2014 – which establishes control measures and specific methods to determine the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol in hemp.

EU Delegated Regulation 2016/1237 e EU Implementing Regulation 2016/1239 – laying down the rules for import licenses for hemp.

EU Implementing Regulation 2016/1239 – laying down rules for the application of the EU Regulation 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the system of import and export licences.

Council Directive 2002/53 / EC – in the common catalog of varieties of agricultural plant species.

Council Directive 2002/57 / EC – on the marketing of oilseed and fiber plant seeds.

Council Decision 2003/17/EC – on the equivalence of field inspections carried out in third countries on seed-producing crops and on the equivalence of seed produced in third countries.

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]


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