Pubdate: Mon, 18 Aug 2008
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Brian Shypula
Bookmark: (Hemp - Outside U.S.)


Crop Not Only Grown For Food But Industrial Applications As Well

TAVISTOCK - A decade after it became legal to grow in Canada, 
industrial hemp finally looks closer to delivering on its potential 
as a wonder crop.

"It's growing rapidly but it's a delicate balance still in the growth 
phase," Gordon Scheifele, former president of the Ontario Hemp 
Alliance, said at a field trial open house held Saturday northwest of 

"We want to communicate ... that 'Hey, this is great stuff, it's 
going to change our lives with regard to how it moves into the 
industrial applications, the hemp grain for food,'" he said.

The former University of Guelph and Ridgetown College research 
scientist has half an acre with a dozen varieties of hemp planted 
beside a corn field on Line 33.

One trial, sponsored by the Canadian Adaptation Council, is looking 
at hemp for grain in food products for people and animals. The other, 
part of an Alberta Research Council project, is growing hemp for fibre.

Hemp is considered by many to be a wonder crop, with fibre suitable 
for paper, animal bedding, garden mulch, insulation, construction 
materials and car parts.

On the food side, the seed is a nutritional powerhouse. It contains 
high levels of the recommended 3:1 ratio of essential omega 6 and 
omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of 
cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes. Hemp seeds 
are also protein-rich and an excellent source of rare gamma-linoleic 
acid, important for growth and development as well as providing 
protection against degenerative conditions like arthritis.

Brian Holden opened Flour of Life on Downie Street in Stratford six 
weeks ago, selling gluten-free baked products made with hemp flour 
and a line of hemp-based products, including soaps and skin creams.

"I think once you get the education out there it's going to take off 
and do very well because it's a very healthy plant, very versatile 
plant - it can be used for just about anything," he said from his 
booth at the open house.

But hemp also carries a stigma because it and marijuana both from the 
cannabis family. However, hemp has an extremely low THC percentage, 
the narcotic agent in marijuana, and doesn't produce a high. The 
local field day coincided with Seattle Hempfest. The weekend 
"protestival" was expected to draw more than 150,000 people who 
support reforming laws pertaining to marijuana - especially 
legalizing the domestic production of hemp.

"It's totally, totally coincidental," Mr. Scheifele said, laughing.

"We're not here for a party - we're here to communicate the 
significance of this as a crop," he added.

At this point hemp is still a niche crop in Canada.

About 45,000 acres of hemp was grown in Canada last year, most of it 
in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Ontario produced only a few 
hundred acres.

This year, production is down to 10,000-12,000 acres nationwide.

Mr. Scheifele said the decline reflects last year's overproduction 
when there is still a lack of market opportunities for hemp.

But that could change soon in Ontario.

Stemergy Renewable Fibre Technologies received $3.3 million in 
funding from the provincial government in May for its proprietary 
fibre refining technology. The Delaware-area plant is expected to 
create 20 new jobs directly and impact as many as 100 through the raw 
materials and supply sides when it begins production next year.

Company president Geof Kime brought examples of hemp-based products 
at the field day, including a door panel from a Chrysler Sebring.

"Just about all the carmakers are using some kind of a natural fibre 
technology. It just makes economic sense," he said.

"And now with oil being expensive, the idea of using plant-based 
products to replace oil-based products just makes a whole lot of 
economic sense," he said.

Cash cropper Kevin Preiss said he is interested in the potential for 
hemp for farmers but is being cautious.

"The fibre is useful, it's a healthy plan, good for you and 
everything . why hasn't it taken off," he said at the field trial.

Dairy farmer Alex Gibson grew one of the first two hemp crops in 
Perth County in 1998, the first year the Canadian government allowed 
industrial hemp to be grown.

Contacted Saturday, Mr. Gibson said it turned out to be a bust.

"Most of it never got to market," he said in an interview.

"Actually, I burned it in a big open area when no one was around," he 
added with a chuckle.

Despite the failure, Mr. Gibson said he was glad to be part of the 
hemp experience and still sees potential for the alternative crop.

He grew the hemp under contract to Hempline, the predecessor to 
Stemergy also run by Mr. Kime.

"In retrospect, growing the crop is the easy thing. Taking it all the 
way to market - there's challenges involved. When we got going, there 
was no processing infrastructure and not a lot was understood about 
the markets," Mr. Kime said.

"People don't appreciate what has to be done in the development of 
the infrastructure," Mr. Scheifele said.

"There's been huge progress," he added.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom