Position Paper on the Development of Bioeconomy Value Chains with Focus on Hemp

This report, “Position paper on the development of bioeconomy value chains with focus on hemp,” is from the HempClub of Czechia, on hemp in the E.U.

They make the case I’ve been making for 30 years, that food from the grain is the way forward for hemp. And they make that case over and over, but blame regulations on the lack of market development instead of focusing on the way out of the maze, namely demand creation. It is mentioned but not emphasized.

Maximum THC in the E.U. in food is generally 10 ppm, just like Canada which built a billion-dollar hemp food industry the last 25 years anyway. In the ’90s in the U.S. it was 1 ppm but we persevered, flourished even. Demand is the problem, not rules.

Canada proved the best path for hemp is to grow for seed, sell value-added branded foods globally, and get way more biomass for fibre projects thereby reducing the net cost of both.

Food already has the most consumers, retailers, companies, products, sales, profits, and acres the last 25 years, and the largest potential market (everyone eats). Hemp food is a win-win for the industry.

It’s unfortunate that when assembling multi-disciplinary teams, Marketers always seem to get left behind. Farmer, processor, labs, breeder, consultants, lawyers, lobbyists… everyone is there but a Marketer.

But when it comes to demand creation and adding value, who else is going to do it but a Marketer? That is literally their job, profession, career. Ignoring demand creation is a fatal flaw for an industry desperately in need of more sales to simply remain viable.

This report also highlights an important fact: it was funded by government grant. Like in the E.U. and Canada, the U.S. federal and state governments need to step up and inject needed capital into this nascent industry before it withers away.

Here are some excerpts from the report:

Position paper on the development of bioeconomy value chains with focus on hemp

The strategy prioritizes sustainable food and resource management, reduced reliance on non-renewables, climate change mitigation, and competitiveness and job creation.

Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, distinguishes itself with negligible THC levels, making it a versatile plant for textiles, ropes, building materials, and bioplastics, thus, to be an important player in the bioeconomy revolution. Its ecological benefits, including phytoremediation, contribute to sustainability in various sectors, aligning with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting the European Green Deal. Despite hemp’s potential, challenges such as stigma, regulatory complexity, and the absence of global standards hinder its growth. Addressing these issues requires policy reform, standardization, education, and collaboration across sectors.

The exploration of promising value chains for industrial hemp focuses on establishing sustainable and collaborative supply chains. Building trust among key stakeholders is identified as crucial for successful collaboration. This document outlines a strategic process for building localized value chains, involving farmers, refining factories, local markets, and scaling up to industrial levels.

Governmental support, particularly through legislation encouraging collaboration, is deemed essential. Identified key value chains for hemp across sectors, such as textiles, construction, automotive, nutraceuticals, bio-composites are detailed. Examples of innovative hemp-based products within these sectors are highlighted, alongside opportunities for overcoming regulatory hurdles, addressing THC limits, and strengthening networking and collaboration.
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The main objective of the HempClub project was to create an interconnected and interregional supply chain between operators in primary production, agri-food processing, and green chemistry by strengthening industrial symbiosis and sustainable and renewable business models.
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Now, while China and the USA are vying for the lead in bio-based production, Europe is proving uncertain, amidst directives and regulations that often contradict each other and which, due to a silo approach do not fully grasp the opportunities of some strongly interdisciplinary and holistic sectors such as the Bioeconomy in which bio-based products, bioenergy, waste and by-products from the agro-food and wood supply chains, bioprocesses, and system redesign are strongly connected and can really contribute to the decarbonisation of the economy
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The EU Bioeconomy Strategy defines five objectives that a sustainable and circular EU bioeconomy should achieve: i) Ensuring food and nutrition security; ii) Managing natural resources sustainably; iii) Reducing dependence on nonrenewable, unsustainable resources, whether sourced domestically or from abroad; iv) Mitigating and adapting to climate change; v) Strengthening European competitiveness and creating jobs. In detail:

Ensuring food and nutrition security. Food availability indicators are seen to be generally stable, which is in line with other recent assessments on food security made by the European Commission. The indicators contributing to the understanding of accessibility to food are showing that while there is more overall food security in the EU, the food purchasing power has slightly declined in the past 5 years (it is stable on a 10-year average).
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Isolating food waste generation from biowaste, we do not see any significant change in time at any step of the supply chain. Assessing food waste by food category, we do see that there has been, in the past five years, a significant decline in food waste generation for cereals, fish and oil crops.
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The share of manufacture of food and beverages activities registered a stable to positive trend in the analyzed periods. More traditional non-food biomass-processing activities show a stable evolution (e.g. wood products and paper) or, in the case of textiles, a structural decline.
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The strategy’s objectives highlight the need for sustainable food and resource management, reduced reliance on non-renewables, climate change mitigation, and boosting competitiveness and job creation.
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Furthermore, the seeds and oil derived from hemp are highly nutritious and rich in essential fatty acids, proteins, and minerals, making them valuable in food and or animal feed additives.
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Food and Beverages

Food and Beverages include hemp seed-derived products but also, more recently, flowers and leaves extracts. Hemp food is a relatively new market, although its use in the kitchen is testified from the Middle Ages. In Europe, the hemp food sector was unlocked in the second half of the 1990s, becoming more and more relevant in the food sector, being classified today as a “superfood”.

Today Canadian companies were the first to unlock the potential market of hemp food. Since 2000, they have been the unique suppliers of the huge US market, taking advantage of the fact that until 2018 hemp food could be sold but not produced inside the USA. The food and beverages market holds great potential for hemp-based products looking to benefit from recent trends toward health and sustainable eating.

The largest European grower of hemp, France, produces over 11,500 tons of hemp grain per year. In 2016, 44% of the French hemp seed production was employed for animal feed, 43% for human consumption, and 13% for oil production. The largest French producer of hemp seed, La Chanvrière de l’Aube, claims to supply 30-50% of Europe’s hemp seed demand each year.

The second European hemp seed producer is the Lithuanian company Allive contracting organic farmers all around Europe for their BRC quality production of hemp food ingredients on more than 8000 ha.
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For example, under SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), hemp seeds, rich in proteins and fatty acids, contribute to food security. Again:

SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production): Hemp’s sustainability in production and versatility in usage exemplify responsible consumption.

SDG 13 (Climate Action): Hemp’s carbon sequestration abilities make it vital for climate action efforts.

SDG 15 (Life on Land): Hemp farming supports soil health and biodiversity.
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Industrial strategy for a clean and circular economy EU Industrial strategy Hemp value chains can provide growth in rural areas, manufacturing and food processing industries. Processing requires highly skilled workers ideally in proximity to the cultivation facilities.
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Proposal for a legislative framework for sustainable food systems Hemp is a sustainable multipurpose crop. Nothing goes to waste and everything is upcycled. Local supply chains will need to be established to fully harness the potential of the hemp economy.
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Determine the best modalities for setting minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement to promote healthy and sustainable diets, including organic products, in schools and public institutions

Hemp seeds are particularly rich in high-quality proteins and have a unique essential fatty acid spectrum. Hemp feed can also serve as an enhancer for the nutritional profile of animal products, particularly meat and eggs.
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Review of the EU promotion programme for agricultural and food products with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption

Funding should be granted to products respecting particularly high sustainable standards. Promotion programs could greatly benefit hemp fibres and encourage the reconstitution of textile value chains in Europe.
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Greening the Common Agricultural Policy / ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy

Proposal for a revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive to significantly reduce use and risk and dependency on pesticides and enhance Integrated Pest Management

Hemp already requires a low level of phytosanitary products and is a perfect crop for organic agriculture. It has a positive impact on the yield of subsequent crops when used in rotation and can be utilized as a pioneer crop.

Proposal for a legislative framework for sustainable food systems

Hemp is a sustainable multipurpose crop. Nothing goes to waste and everything is upcycled. Local supply chains will need to be established to fully harness the potential of the hemp economy.

Determine the best modalities for setting minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable food procurement to promote healthy and sustainable diets, including organic products, in schools and public institutions

Hemp seeds are particularly rich in high-quality proteins and have a unique essential fatty acid spectrum. Hemp feed can also serve as an enhancer for the nutritional profile of animal products, particularly meat and eggs.

Review of the EU promotion programme for agricultural and food products with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption

Funding should be granted to products respecting particularly high sustainable standards. Promotion programs could greatly benefit hemp fibres and encourage the reconstitution of textile value chains in Europe.

Review of the EU school scheme

legal framework with a view to refocus the scheme on healthy and sustainable food

EU school scheme should encompass a wider range of products, including hemp seed and hemp seed oil, rich in fatty acids and other nutrients, particularly adapted for a healthy diet

EU carbon farming initiative

Hemp could represent a great crop for carbon farming purposes. Its use should be encouraged with the aim of capturing carbon in the soils or in manufactured goods.

Examination of the draft national strategic plans, with reference to the ambitions of the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy

Hemp being a rotation crop, it can bring additional revenues to farmers and give impetus to EU rural areas. Sectoral interventions coupled by rural development interventions will be key in enabling a fully-fledged circular bio economy based on hemp.
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Nutraceuticals, food additives, and beverages: Hemp seeds are experiencing a resurgence as prominent ingredients in food products, beverages, and nutritional supplements. This resurgence can be attributed to several factors, including the distinctive composition of its fatty acids spectrum, a growing interest in the valorization of agro-food industry residues, and the exploration of new sources of protein. The utilization of hemp seeds is primarily observed in three forms: whole seeds, seeds for oil, and de-hulled seeds.

Notably, a rapidly advancing market in the realm of plant-based foods and beverages is driving the demand for hemp-derived products. These encompass a variety of offerings derived directly from hemp seeds, including whole seeds, as well as processed forms such as meal, flour, protein powder, oil, and bioactive substances.

The oil extracted from hemp seeds stands out as an exceptionally rich source of two essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). This nutritional profile positions hemp seed oil as a more concentrated source of nutrients and proteins compared to soybean, the nearest vegan alternative.

Consequently, the nutritional value of hemp seeds and their oil makes them particularly appealing in the context of the nutraceutical domain. Despite these promising attributes, the nutraceutical domain necessitates further advancements through a meticulous functional characterization of the component proteins within hemp seeds. Achieving a comprehensive understanding of these proteins is crucial for unlocking the full potential of hemp seeds in the nutraceutical industry.

Relevant examples applied to this sector are:

Hempeat (Poland) produces meat alternatives based on hemp seed protein.

Good System (Slovakia) produces vegan plant-based protein shakes for EU markets with 50% hemp seed protein.

Ansce Bio Generic (Italy) produces a line called Hempy that includes i) nutraceuticals (hemp seed oil for multifunctional physiological support) and ii) aromaceuticals (hemp terpenes for food applications).

Canah International SRL (Romania) produces shelled seeds, natural hemp protein, hemp seed snacks/protein bars, protein shakes, Muesli/Granola, hemp chocolate, hemp oil, dietary supplements/capsules with hemp oil, Omega 3+, recipes for food preparations that include oil, flour or hemp seeds, cosmetics (anti-aging creams/serums; moisturizing serums in various forms) and export in all EU Member States except Denmark.
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Get the report at: https://clustercollaboration.eu/sites/default/files/profile-article/HempCluB_Deliverable_D2.9_SPRING_final.docx__1.pdf