36 MAY 2017 HEMP BEER ALREADY ON SALE Entrepreneurial Gisborne businesspeople have produced potentially the country’s first hemp beer to coincide with the new hemp law change on hemp seed sales. Pre-Hemptive Strike, developed by Sunshine Brewery’s head brewer Chris Scott from hemp seeds provided by Tai Pukenga Ltd (which has a small hemp plot on family land in Manutuke), has a slightly spicy flavour provided by the seeds brewed through the process. While hemp comes from the same plant family as marijuana, it has such low levels of the psychoactive component THC that it is impossible to get ‘high’ from it, Scott says. Aside from a higher protein content, the beer contains no other health benefits, but is novel and provides the opportunity to do something new, he says. Prior to the law changes, hemp seeds and hemp seed products - which are rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as omega-3) - were illegal to be consumed as food by humans. Hemp seeds and oil are used in other countries, including in Europe, Canada and the United States of America, in a range of foods, but industrial hemp must contain less than 0.35% of THC. Tai Pukenga director Laurie Te Nahu says they were confident the legislation would be approved.“We think the legislation change will be absolutely brilliant. As a result there will be more research and development into the industry, meaning potentially new crops, industry and jobs.” Last summer was the second season growing hemp on a 100 square metre plot at Manutuke for research and development. Te Nahu’s wife came up with the idea of producing a beer, so they approached Sunshine Brewery and undertook six months of “trial and error.” The 50-litre pilot batch is designed to give people in the community a sample and, depending on how popular it is, the company will continue to refine it with the ultimate aim of having a regular hemp beer in their range. HEMP FARMERS DISAPPOINTED The hemp industry is dismayed by an agreement between the New Zealand and Australian food safety authorities that legalises hemp seed as a food in this country, saying it’s a tiny step and should have been a giant leap. The agreement will allow hemp seeds to be legalised as a food, Food Safety minister David Bennett says, meaning it has been approved to sell safe levels of low-THC hemp seed as a food. However, New Zealand Hemp Industries Association chairman Mack McIntosh says he is extremely disappointed following the recent agreement, saying after 18 years of consultation, the government is still “treating us like a drug crop and only allowing hemp seed foods. This is a massive missed economic opportunity - in a short time, we could have been leading the world! And all sorts of industries would have developed not just in the seed and grain industry," McIntosh says. The current decision means the industry will not have access to the food and beverages from hemp leaves and flowering tops, he says. "The high value nutrition potential is massive, phenols to fragrances are available from this one arable crop and our farmers want access to the revenue streams from the whole plant, not just the seed," McIntosh says. The seed and grain industry will scale up to meet the consumer demand and bring jobs and investment into regional New Zealand, but the iHemp industry could be much bigger if New Zealand included the food and beverages produced from the 20% of the crop left in the field as leaf and flowering tops. "This is a brand new opportunity for farmers to grow a crop and the region to significantly add value by processing the iHemp into high value nutrition hemp products,” McIntosh says. “But 80% of the potential will be missed, because iHemp is still considered to be like growing a drug.” The NZHIA is well positioned to represent the industry on the cross-agency working group which is being set up, he says. "We've worked with the Government in the past on the inter-agency working group which came up with the iHemp regulations in 2006, so it makes sense for us to be part of these discussions.” Bennett says he is pleased with the approval, with low THC-hemp seed nutritious, safe to eat and a boon for the New Zealand economy. "Hemp seeds have a growing global market currently worth around $1 billion. It is estimated it will initially generate between $10 million and $20 million in export revenue and create about 20 jobs." However, before the changes can take effect in New Zealand, changes must be to three acts (the Food Act, Misuse of Drugs Act) and the Medicines Act so no one who buys the "food" will face criminal action. The changes are estimated to take up to 18 months.
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