TASMANIAN farmers have welcomed a potential breakthrough in their fight to allow non-drug hemp seed to be grown as a food source.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has approved the use of low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp seeds as food sources and seed oil, a decision the state's farming heads say will allow farmers to diversify.
But FSANZ’s decision has to be ratified by the federal and state governments through the Council of Australian Governments’ Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation before it can take affect.
A ruling is due within two months.
Hemp is allowed to be cultivated in Australia and New Zealand under strict licensing arrangements and is used to make fibre, textiles, paper and building materials. Hemp seed oil is used in cosmetics.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive Jan Davis said industrial hemp had not been allowed to be grown for food in Australia despite the fact it did not contain usable quantities of the cannabis drug.
“Trials in Tasmania have shown that hemp can be produced efficiently and cost competitively here and growers are keen to rise to the challenge. We are ready to start,” Ms Davis said.
The TFGA’s Phil Reader, also president of the Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania, said hemp seed could increase its value for farmers should COAG approve its wider use.
This could make the valuable crop competitive with poppies, one of Tasmania’s major agricultural export earners, he said.
“At the moment it is worth about $3 a kilo at the farm gate,” Mr Reader said.
“If we could get $5 with these further uses, it would make it as good as poppies for us.”