Image for The four-letter word which could save the world

In a world which is becoming increasingly polluted by chemicals, where land is being degraded by fossil fuel industries, where birds and animals are being killed in horrendous numbers by plastic waste and where climate change is exacerbated by the carbon we emit there is something we can do about it.

The answer is a four letter word!

• It was used after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to phytoremediate the heavily polluted soil and could do the same for our toxic mine wastes

• In NSW trials it has been used to clean up the waste water from sewage works negating the need to release polluted effluent into local waterways

• It improves soil quality, reduces pathogenic nematodes and has natural pest resistance is a good rotational plant and improves the yield of subsequent crops

• It can provide 4 times as much paper from an acre of land in a fraction of the time taken by an acre of trees,  all this without autumn burn-offs, 1080 used to kill browsing animals and chemical sprays

• It can provide bio-degradable plastic reducing the need for petrochemicals and the tonnes of plastic waste which is choking not only our landfill sites but inland waterways and oceans killing millions of animals and birds annually

• It can provide soft yet strong textiles with far less water usage and chemicals than cotton. Henry Ford used its fibre to build car bodies and proved it was tougher, lighter, yet stronger than steel and the recent Kestrel, a Canadian electric car, has an impact-resistant body made from this product

• Its fibre is also used as horse bedding and mulch

• The inner woody part of the stem when mixed with lime and water produces isochanvre a lightweight, pest resistant, building material with excellent thermal properties which is not only recyclable but sequesters carbon and is lauded by Grand Designs’ Kevin McLeod who has used it in several housing developments in UK

• Its seed contains 25% protein and the perfect balance of the essential amino acids outdoing all other crops and has quantities of both soluble and insoluble fibre and can be turned for example into milk, flour and ice cream. Its oil can be used in cooking, body care products, solvents and bio-fuel

• There is worldwide evidence that one of its constituents has given relief to sufferers of a vast array of illnesses including MS, some cancers, arthritis, asthma, epilepsy and high blood pressure and can provide pain relief unattainable from other sources

Guessed what it is?

Yes it’s industrial hemp

With all of this going for it wouldn’t you think the Federal Government would be encouraging farmers to grow this crop?

Well think again!

Food Standards Australia New Zealand decided back in 2002 that hemp was OK to eat here in Australia; only logical considering other countries worldwide have done so for years. But no, the Federal Government denied its use and 12 years later they have still not lifted the ban. Not only that but farmers had to jump through legal hoops just to grow the crop with restrictions far greater than those for cultivation of poppies with their high levels of psychoactive ingredients which industrial hemp lacks.

So you can see that hemp is really an amazing plant and the sooner our recalcitrant politicians realise this and lift the ban, plus legislate to differentiate it from its cousin marijuana, the sooner it can be removed from Poison Lists. It could then be treated as any other crop and just imagine the number of jobs and value-adding industries this would create?