Irish hemp stakeholders blast government for ignoring them

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Irish hemp stakeholders have released an open letter to the government and other constituencies, saying they’ve been ignored as legislation and regulations for industrial hemp have been developed. The result is a current framework that has resulted in “economic nonsense and environmental sabotage,” Hemp Federation Ireland (HFI), which drafted the letter, claims.

“The transfer of the food value of the crop to the pharmaceutical and corporate food sectors, will completely destroy the core environmental value of our industry,” HFI said in the letter, which was signed by the Federation’s Executive Director, Chris Allen.

Lack of research

The statement was also addressed to Ireland’s Green Party; elected representatives; the Environmental Pillar, a group of of 26 environmental NGOs; and other environmental interests. HFI faulted Teagasc, the country’s Agriculture & Food Development Authority, noting it and other government agencies have failed to conduct research on hemp through the past 20 years.

Leadership of the Green Party, which recently agreed to a “Programme for Government” that addresses environmental and development issues, was particularly singled out for criticism in the letter. HFI said the program – which only makes a passing reference to the potential for hemp stalk – was drafted without the consultation of hemp industry stakeholders.

SME model

“Our industry, in its entirety, must be enabled to continue to develop, as it has for more than 25 years, as a locally situated, SME based, agri-food and fiber sector,” the letter said. “It is the sum of the crop’s total potentials combined, and locally mediated within a fully integrated development paradigm, that constitutes the most exceptional of climate transition pathways.”

HFI said Ireland can reach its full potential in hemp only if state legislative, regulatory and financial policy are aligned, and criticized the government for a legislative framework for hemp “now in total chaos” as a result of rules changes since 2018.

‘Irrational intervention’

“Interventions have been irrational, extreme and destructive in nature, . . . show little appreciation of the current state of scientific knowledge, and have severely damaged our farms, our businesses, and our livelihoods,” the letter said. The resulting policies have taken hemp out of the hands of farmers, creating a situation in which “the only hemp entering our food chain will have been synthetically grown in laboratories.”

“We cannot understand who is informing government policy in relation to our industry but the industry remains very poorly understood across all Irish state departments and agencies,” HFI said.

Key agencies absent

HFI said the Irish Hemp Industry Forum, an industry-led initiative to establish a platform to guide informed policymaking for hemp, agreed to draft terms of reference with Ireland’s Department of Agriculture. But the Federation said although there is enthusiasm for the Forum, Ireland’s Department of Health and key agencies within its control have refused to participate, as have other key government agencies.

“This Forum, with the support and participation of all relevant state actors, now needs to be convened without delay,” HFI said.

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