The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a dynamic policy which, through successive reforms, has been adapted to new challenges faced by European agriculture. These challenges include more sustainable use of natural resources, climate change, increased competition from global markets and the need to maintain thriving rural areas across the EU.
Currently, the CAP legislative framework is under revision and EIHA has seized the opportunity to flag several issues and to put forward concrete solutions.
The draft regulations amending the CAP have been proposed by the European Commission back in 2019. They are currently under scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council (Member States). This is a timely and important opportunity for hemp producers to advocate, among other things, for the increase in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content of varieties permitted to be grown in Europe, a longstanding request of the whole sector. EIHA is working constructively with MEPs to facilitate the increase in THC levels from 0.2% to 0.3%.
According to the original Commission proposal on CAP Strategic Plans, the allowable varieties grown in Europe have to be planted from seeds with a tetrahydrocannabinol content below 0.2%. EIHA are actively contributing to the process aimed at reestablishing the 0.3% THC level.
It is important to stress that from 1976 to 1999 hemps producers were permitted to plant seeds with a concentration of 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (dry weight basis) which was to delineate between “hemp” (non-drug Cannabis) and “marijuana” (drug Cannabis). Since then, the 0.3% THC limit value for industrial hemp has been used internationally. However, the limit was then lowered from 0.3% to 0.2%; based on the expectation that this will prevent the cultivation off illicit drug type Cannabis (i.e. marijuana) in industrial hemp fields. To date, no evidence has ever been presented to support the effectiveness of this measure.
Having a low-THC limit (0.2%) across Europe considerably restricts the choice of varieties for European farmers. This places the entire European hemp industry at a significant competitive disadvantage against producers in the rest of the world where limits range from 0.3% up to 1.0%.
In the context of a rapidly growing hemp market, this problem will become even bigger in subsequent years. Clearly, a higher limit will facilitate the growth of the European hemp industry with considerable economic and environmental benefits for all member states. It will strengthen our competitiveness, drive the development and creation of new sustainable industrial sectors and provide significant new job opportunities and employment.
Currently European hemp producers can only choose from 60+ varieties. However, by increasing the permitted THC level to 0.3%, producers could select from over 500 varieties. Many of these have better disease resistance, have more robust fibers and shorter harvest interval.
In terms of quality, a higher THC limit would solve the problem related to plant genetic diversity (PDG) by increasing the varieties allowed to be planted. Indeed, hemp plants used today in Europe are the result of a long inter-breeding process which considerably undermines the genetic heritage and hence, the strength of the plants. Access to new varieties will dramatically enhance genetic diversity of European hemp cultivation.
In summary, there are major benefits relating to both quality and quantity of plant products by reinstating the THC level to 0.3%.
For all these reasons EIHA welcomed the AGRI Committee vote on 2nd of April 2019, supporting the EIHA request to restore the former 0.3% limit.