Hemp harvesting. Photo: Wikimedia.
Great news for TreeHuggers in South America: Uruguay could become the first country in the region to authorize the cultivation of industrial hemp, according to El Pais newspaper. The national Ministry of Cattle, Agriculture and Fishing has authorized an experimental cultivation of hemp to take place in october 2010. If the results are successful, the country could grant permits to producers to start growing.The pilot cultivation will be carried away by the National Institute for Farming Technology and its place will remain secret. The goal is to get to know the productive capacities of the country and how the plants varieties respond to Uruguayan soil.
If the cultivation moves forward, however, producers will only be able to grow hemp with special permits so that the Ministry of Agriculture can control the production.
One of the companies behind the project is The Latin American Hemp Trading, which is fighting to make Uruguay the first country in the region to enter the industry of hemp since 2006.
Hemp and the South American soy frenzy
You probably know that hemp is a great crop: fast growing, needs few to no herbicides, and is incredible versatile, among other interesting characteristics. Problem is, its production is still banned in many countries for its association with the psychoactive variety used as drug (the industrial hemp has less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana contains anywhere from 6 or 7% to 20% or even more).
So far countries in South America make no distinction between industrial and psychoactive hemp, and neither does Uruguay. But that could begin to change if the results from this project are positive.
Apart from the amazing materials that can be produced with hemp, it would be interesting to know how the region reacts if Uruguay is successful growing hemp. Right now Argentina and Uruguay are major transgenic-soy producers, with heavy use of harmful herbicides and fertilizers. If the hemp industry takes off and proves lucrative, ¿could it provide some balance to soy production? Hopefully.