Industrial Crops: Let's Revisit Hemp

  Industrial Crops: Let's Revisit Hemp

Posted by CN Staff on October 30, 2003 at 13:04:04 PT
By Thomas Jefferson Hoban IV, AlterNet 
Source: AlterNet 

Tension continues to mount over genetically modified crops. The biotechnology industry is banking on its ability to utilize plants for an assortment of industrial and pharmaceutical products. However, the food industry and consumer groups have serious reservations about the industry's plans to genetically modify common food crops, such as corn, to manufacture pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals.
What we need for this emerging and important industry is a plant that has all the technical advantages of corn; but is not widely used in food production. We need a plant that can produce large quantities of seed while growing like a weed in a wide range of conditions. It would be great if there were a plant that we already knew how to breed and manage for maximum production. Scientists also need a plant that is easy to genetically modify. Consumer groups would be thrilled if that plant could also be raised in an ecologically sustainable manner. The good news is that this plant already exists: hemp! The bad news is that a small group of US ideologues currently holds this ancient crop plant hostage. People have used hemp around the world for over 3,000 years. All parts of the plant provide useful materials. America's founding fathers recognized this plant, along with tobacco and cotton, as the cornerstone of our young economy. In fact, Thomas Jefferson himself not only raised and praised the crop but was also dedicated to scientific research on "hemp-culture." Unfortunately, US policy took a wrong turn in the 1930s. Prohibitionists lost their battle with alcohol and needed a new target. Marijuana was an easy choice because it was not widely used in the US (except among Mexican immigrants, jazz musicians, and other "undesirables.") Over the subsequent decades, right-wing fundamentalists have used misleading propaganda and discriminatory law enforcement to vilify hemp, along with smoking grade marijuana. At a time when we desperately need new engines of economic growth, this well-known and beneficial plant could "fire up" the American economy. Those companies and countries that invest in hemp biotech will be richly rewarded as the markets for hemp-based products have enormous growth potential. Unfortunately, the current prohibition effectively restricts ANY research into hemp production for industrial purposes – not to mention any scientific evaluation of the potential benefits and uses of medical marijuana. Recent surveys show over three-quarters of Americans support the medical use of marijuana, while just as many agree that marijuana users should not be sent to jail. Clearly there will be popular support for the industrial use of hemp. In fact, the European community and Canada are rapidly moving to legalization of marijuana, and US medical marijuana advocates are making strong headway at the state level. Marijuana (hemp's consciousness-bending cousin) is already the largest cash crop in many parts of the US and the world. Unfortunately, all that money is now off the books, meaning the public is denied a huge pot of tax dollars. We should simply regulate these plants the same way we control other more harmful – but legal - plant based products (i.e., alcohol, cigarettes and some questionable "nutritional supplements.") Hemp has the potential to serve as a cost-effective, safe, and versatile solution to the impasse facing the biotechnology enterprise. All parts of the plant (seeds, stalks, leaves) can be used to produce a wide range of medicines, health supplements, and industrial materials. Congress should immediately take steps to legalize and promote this special plant. The US Department of Agriculture should take over all regulation and eliminate the ineffective and unjust programs of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Hemp deserves an expanded, R&D program through the USDA and our Land Grant Universities. Once we map the hemp genome we will be able to fully unlock the power within this versatile plant. Then companies will be able to deliver innovative value-added products to the market place that will lead to improved health care, cleaner industrial processes, and a range of other benefits. The same consumer groups who now oppose genetically modified food crops should applaud the use of such a sustainable and well-understood crop. In fact, many "green groups" in Europe also support international legalization of hemp. The biotech industry could get behind efforts of NORML and others who seek a more rational approach to one of humanity's oldest and favorite crops. For almost 70 years, conservative ideologues have waged a costly and losing war against marijuana in the US. Like the current ban on stem cell research, hemp is a victim of moral objections by a powerful minority. The Dutch, Danes and Canadians are leading the development of new cannabis hybrids and positioning themselves to reap the hemp economic harvest. This issue should be addressed in the upcoming campaigns. Those politicians who get behind the legalization of hemp will harvest a bumper crop of popular support. Our founding fathers would applaud a willingness to change course and take another look at one of nature's most valuable plants. Dr. Hoban is a professor of sociology and anthropology at North Carolina State University. For the past 15 years he has studied the social implications and public perceptions of biotechnology. His forthcoming book "The Seven Habits of Highly Happy Hippies " examines the lessons and legacy of the sixties counterculture.URL: AlterNet (US)Author:   Thomas Jefferson Hoban IV, AlterNetPublished: October 30, 2003Copyright: 2003 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters alternet.orgWebsite: Hemp Links -- Hemp Archives

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Comment #5 posted by Virgil on October 30, 2003 at 17:44:47 PT
One more time
I was wanting to put up this link to an article that appeared at that is headed "Bill To Legalize Coca Prepared in Colombia"- was reading an article that was talking about the constitutional amendment the nutcases want to outlaw any state recognition of marriage or union that is not between a man and woman. The guy was gay of course and he used the phrase "smite them with a clue." Now for the malfeasance of Walter's I thought about a labotomy to make room for a clue. Another thing I wonder about is what ever happened to Francis Young who ruled against the Schedule 1 classification of cannabis. I sure would like to hear his story. You know it is one thing to be insulted by the LB&O of WaltersCo, but why do they insist on boring us into rage. Why can't they say it will cause you to grow two heads, so at least we will here a different lie. The country has gone to hell and half the people think things are fine. It is one thing to win the arguement of intellect, but what do you do when you are fighting stupidity?
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Comment #4 posted by Virgil on October 30, 2003 at 17:25:32 PT
There is always something else
I was going to say that AlterNet had an excellent article about Bolivia- It came out October3rd in the DrugReporter section and is titled, "Bolivia, the Drug War and a Leaf."CounterPunch also recently had a good story on Bolivia-
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on October 30, 2003 at 17:16:47 PT
I Agree Virgil
AlterNet does a fine job with news.
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Comment #2 posted by Virgil on October 30, 2003 at 17:13:08 PT
AlterNet is a great website
This was an excellent article of course. What is sad is that it was not picked up by the media giants. How the American public is sheltered from the truth about the hemp and cannabis story is amazing. The article in comment1 by FoM gives us another valuable product I have not heard mentioned before and that would be wood sugar for diabetics.One thing that hurts the Canadian hemp products here has got to be the rise of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar. Hemp products were always kind of expensive by my standards and now they are even more so. Well, I am smoking some dandilion leaves. They are kind of relaxing. There is still nothing like a joint.
CBC online video of 9/11- It is not your US media
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 30, 2003 at 15:36:18 PT

Hemp Article From New Zealand
Growing Hemp, The Wonder Plant October 31, 2003 By Tim CronshawA champion for the cause of hemp growing has put the feelers out to Canterbury farmers for 20,000ha of land to cultivate the wonder plant. Christchurch's Blair Anderson has received offers of the free use of 45ha for researching biomass yields of the low-THC variety of cannabis sativa since approaching North Canterbury Federated Farmers last month. Farmers at the group's meeting were surprised at the sheer amount of land required by potential hemp growers. Mr Anderson said he may have to look again at hemp trials on a smaller scale as seed costs are so high. He said an "angel investor" is needed to establish a centre of excellence for hemp development in NZ at a minimum cost of $1 million. "If we do this well, we can make as much from conferences, design work, and technology advances as we can out of handling the hemp itself. There is just as much money in intellectual property." Mr Anderson said the utility crop had the ability to become a major source of biofarming. Hemp growing is a serious business in the Eastern European bloc, where it is developed into a biofuel. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. The future for the plant in NZ could rest in "hash-phalt", said Mr Anderson, who has acted as a technology consultant for the Christchurch City Council. The asphalt substitute combines hemp elements with ground river stone. It could be used in playgrounds and environmentally sensitive areas, and would prevent volatile hydrocarbons from continuing to be emitted from conventional road surfaces, Mr Anderson said. He sees other return-rich markets for biodiesel derived from hemp seed oil as a boutique marine application, and for clean and green businesses such as vineyards. Crude oil from the plant could be used as fuel to run turbines for electrical production, Mr Anderson said. An advantage of the fuel is that it takes extreme heat to be set alight. Wood sugar from hemp can be developed into a replacement sweetener in products which do not enter the diabetic pathway, and into high-value fibres in aircraft and vehicle components because of its biodegradability and difficulty to burn. In good soil and climatic conditions, about 15 tonnes of biofuel can be produced per hectare. Mr Anderson said investors were reluctant to invest in hemp production because of its "cultural relationship" with cannabis. Hemp research is under way at Lincoln University and about 20 growers throughout NZ are licensed to grow the crop.
Growing Hemp, The Wonder Plant 
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