Nature's wonder fibre
Imagine a single product that is so versatile it can be transformed into textiles, clothing, cosmetics, soap, beer, industrial fibre, building materials and paper. Better yet, imagine one that can produce that full range of items without using dangerous chemicals. Well, the product already exists. It's the hemp plant or, as it's often called, industrial hemp.
People have been using hemp for a very long time; the imprints of its fibres have been found on Chinese pottery dating from 10,000 years ago. During the 18th and 19th centuries, hemp was widely grown in Canada for cordage, canvas, clothing and many other purposes, but became an illegal crop in 1938. In 1998, however, industrial hemp was legalized in Canada for research and commercial purposes. The potential offered by the newly resurgent global hemp market has sparked much interest among Canadian farmers.
From fibre to food
Canada's hemp industry is pioneering the development of hemp-based foods. Food products derived from hemp seed include flour, nutritional bars, pasta, cookies, lactose-free milk and even ice cream. For health-conscious consumers, hemp seeds are second only to soybeans in furnishing complete proteins. In addition, the seeds can be crushed to provide a nutritious oil that contains both omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs). Hempseed oil's emollient properties also make it an ideal ingredient for producing both leave-on and rinse-off body care products such as lotions and creams.
At the industrial end of the spectrum, automobile manufacturers are using hemp fibres to make stronger, lighter and less expensive structural panels. In the paper industry, hemp can be environmentally preferable to wood because the plant matures in three to four months and can yield four times as much paper as an equal acreage of trees.
Cleanliness and safety
Industrial hemp thrives in damp earth, but dislikes standing water. This makes it an excellent crop for the clean soils of Canada's prairies, so most of our hemp is grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It's environmentally-friendly because it doesn't need herbicides; in fact, most of Canada's hemp is certified organic.
All Canadian commercial hemp strains are carefully regulated and monitored by the federal government to maintain and ensure genetic identity, and to control its levels of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana). So, although hemp and marijuana belong to the same species, industrial hemp contains only small amounts of THC, and products made from industrial hemp have no psychoactive effects when consumed.
Experience the Canadian difference
From unique, nutritious foods to environmentally friendly clothing, Canada's hemp industry has something for almost everyone. For further information, please visit:
- Health Canada: Information on Industrial Hemp
- Agri-Food Trade Service
- Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance
- North American International Hemp Council
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