David Bennett: Hemp seed to be legalised as food

NZME staff,
Publish Date
Friday, 28 April 2017, 5:16PM
Low-THC hemp seed will allowed to be classified as food (Getty Images).

UPDATED 6.07pm: New Zealanders will soon be able to eat a type of cannabis after it was approved by food safety officials.

LISTEN ABOVE: Food Safety Minister David Bennett speaks exclusively to Rachel Smalley

Ministers at the NZ Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation in Adelaide said hemp seeds would soon be cleared for consumption in New Zealand and Australia.

Food Safety Minister David Bennett said New Zealand had endorsed the move, which would apply to hemp with a low levels of THC, the mind-altering ingredient in cannabis.

He told Rachel Smalley it's an exciting new industry for New Zealand.

"We're looking at hopefully $15 to 20 million worth of volume and 20 jobs as a result of it. It's a very big industry overseas, especially in North America it's very big."

Hemp had no psychoactive effect and was considered nutritious and safe to eat, he said.
It could also create a small economic opportunity. The global market for hemp seeds was worth around $1 billion, and its legalisation could eventually generate up to $20m in exports.

Bennett described it as an exciting new industry.

“These seeds do not require either fertiliser or irrigation. Because of the low inputs, research has put the farm gate revenue for hemp seed between $4000 and $5000 per hectare.

“The growth of the seeds will also lead to job creation in New Zealand from processing the seed crop into oil, flour, protein and hulled hemp seeds.”

Associate Professor of Nutritional Science at Canberra University, Dr Duane Mellor, said hemp seed's not just for vegetarians - it's also a great source of protein.

"It's got a long history as a use of fibre and oil in traditional medicines. It was used in the 19th century in Australia elsewhere in the world it's been used as a protein source in Europe and America."

It would take around 18 months to change drug and food safety laws to legalise the product.

Hemp seed oil can already be legally sold in New Zealand.

The high-level Food Standards Australia and NZ (FSANZ) forum has previously rejected applications to use heep seed for food. 

Ministers had said that making the product more available could send a "confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of illicit cannabis".

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