Hemp Foods – A “Massive” Missed Economic Opportunity In New Zealand

Industrial hemp based foods in New Zealand
Image: H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

While many are celebrating industrial hemp seed being allowed as food in Australian and New Zealand, the NZHIA said it’s a “baby step”.

As we mentioned yesterday, the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation meeting held last week resulted in the approval of hemp seed foods.

In New Zealand, the cultivation of industrial hemp is still handled under NZ’s Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006; an unfortunate and very odd situation given the plant has zero value as a recreational drug.

“After 18 years of consultation, the Food Ministers are still treating us like a drug crop and only allowing hemp seed foods. This is a massive missed economic opportunity,” says Mack McIntosh, New Zealand Hemp Industries Association’s Chairman.

“In a short time we could have been leading the world! And all sorts of industries would have developed; not just in the seed and grain industry.”

Hemp leaves and flowering tops can also be used for creating food products; but both will remain banned for this purpose in Australia and New Zealand.

An example of such a food item is hemp juice, obtained through cold-pressing the upper parts of the plant as well as the leaves. Hemp juice contains easily digestible proteins, all eight essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins and many polyphenols.

Hemp leaf powder is also considered by some to be a “superfood”.

“The high value nutrition potential is massive, phenols to fragrances are available from this one arable crop and our farmers want access to the revenue streams from the whole plant, not just the seed,” said Mr. McIntosh.

Mr. McIntosh stated 80% of industrial hemp’s food potential will be missed due to it being considered as growing a drug.

In many places across the world, industrial hemp is just considered another crop; enabling farmers to extract the maximum value from the crop and provide the maximum benefit to consumers.

Hopefully, the approval of hemp seed foods in Australian and New Zealand last week will be the thin edge of the wedge of taking full advantage of industrial hemp’s food potential; but it will likely be some years away as prejudices based on misinformation run deep.