Running Low on Hemp Seed

Given the controversial history of the hemp plant in developed nations, TreeHuggers might wonder which came first: cultivation for fiber or for psychotropic use. Should we be destined to repeat history, as often alleged, the answer is no doubt that it was for fiber. Judging by the number of hemp fiber products featured on TreeHugger, looks like you, Dear Readers, have sent demand high. The future of hemp now rests in the hands of big government and agricultural interests. Evidence? Take this April's notification of the World Trade Organization, by the European Commission, that a variance to European standards for hemp seed quality is being requested on behalf of the UK. The idea is to get enough of the right type of seed on hand for the spring planting in UK nations, a sustainable agriculture option that has been legal for only a few years.
TreeHuggers can surmise that UK interests (Canada included?)identified a shortage of seed which could be certified to meet the EU standards, which are designed to ensure optimal crop yield, disease resistance, and low levels of psychotropic compounds. Does this request for trade-rule variance reflect increased hemp demand or lack of certifiable seed, or both? Read the official WTO submittal yourselves TreeHuggers. See what you think?

"In the United Kingdom the quantity of available seed of hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) suitable to the national climatic conditions and which satisfies the germination capacity requirements of Directive 2002/57/EC is insufficient and is therefore not adequate to meet the needs of that Member State. It is not possible to meet the demand for seed of these species satisfactorily with seed from other Member States or from third countries which satisfies all the requirements laid down in Directive 2002/57/EC. Therefore Member States should be permitted to allow the placing on the market of seed of hemp subject to less stringent requirements for a limited period. The urgency of the measure is due to the short time period between the seed certification exercise, when the shortage was identified, and the sowing season".

The bureaucracy, here, hints at how sustainable industries of the future will be shaped by WTO actions and national attitudes. While the USA focuses on reducing production of psychotropic hemp, the UK is focused, instead, on upping production of industrially useful varieties. By instituting government seed quality standards, and registering them as standard with the WTO, the UK has effectively set up non-tariff trade barriers that let its farmers "home source" the raw materials of a sustainable industry. This gives them a leg up on cornering mass markets of the future. It also indicates that we TreeHuggers will be buying hemp clothes made under the Island USA scenario. That's the one where head-in-the-sand-thinking hands over the economic benefits of sustainable development to the farmers and textile makers of every nation except the US.

Besides helping boost early demand though their purchasing,
[TH-1 TH-2 TH-3 TH-4 TH-5 TH-6 TH-7 TH-8 TH-9 TH-10 TH-11 TH-12 TH-13 TH-14, etc., etc.] and besides making innovative products from hemp as green enrepreneurs, TreeHuggers have another role to play.

Suppose that a UK company develops and patents a genetically modified hemp variety that is completely absent any active psychotropic compounds. And suppose that this new variety is especially productive of top quality fiber when grown on UK soils and with UK weather, even under plausible climate change scenarios. Would TreeHuggers boycott clothing make of these plants' fibers just because the use of GM technique clashed with their utopian vision of how things ought to be (all natural). Or, would US TreeHuggers favor buying it simply to spite the opposite flavor of utopianism hosted by their government?

The history we write is the history future generations can relive.

By: John Laumer

Related Content on