09 December 2011

Hemp could get nutritional nod

The debate in Australia over hemp is intensifying, with the food standards watchdog considering permitting the use of the controversial plant as food.
There has been hemp in Australia since the First Fleet when it was planted for its use in ship ropes, but its association with marijuana over the past century has given it a bad name.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand has found no public health or safety concerns to prevent it giving the nod to varieties of the plant that do not contain mind-altering chemicals.
Backers of hemp as food say it is high in protein and contains good fats and essential amino acids. They say hemp seed food provides many nutrients humans need that cannot be found in other food sources.
But critics argue the decision to give hemp food status would send a mixed message in the war on illicit drugs, fearing it could throw up false-positive results in drug tests used on workers, drivers and athletes.
"I don't think it's a good idea. I'm concerned that it might send a message that cannabis is safe, whereas it is not," Opposition primary health spokesman Andrew Southcott said.
"What I'm saying is that cannabis itself as a drug is not safe. Really it does need to be seen as part of a wider campaign to normalise the use of marijuana."
While Food Standards acknowledges the hemp that might be approved for food is from the same plant family as marijuana, it says there is no chance of people getting high from eating it.
"The cannabis plant has many varieties and we're looking at a variety which is commonly called hemp, which has none of those psychoactive properties that the other plant has," Food Standards general manager Dean Stockwell said.
Hemp producer Phil Warner says any fear of it as a food source is born of ignorance.
"There's a lot of hype and misinformation about that, perpetuated not only by the Government but actually unfortunately by the media as well, where people really don't understand the issues at hand," he said.
"The simple facts are that 90% of all the cannabis species have no drug value whatsoever. The second is that hemp seed does not contain any THC at all."
A spokesman for the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Catherine King, says the Federal Government remains opposed to the introduction of hemp in food.

8 December, 2011
Ashley Hall and staff
ABC Brisbane

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