Last month I spent the majority of my time hopping around the globe speaking on seed nutrition. From Canada to Prague, Ukraine, Russia and Eastern Europe, every stop of the tour was an amazing experience. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit exhausted from timezone changes and plane travel. Luckily, I can run on very little sleep!
Returning home, I started to realize how many fascinating and enthusiastic people with a heartfelt interest in seed nutrition I had met. The stories, the conversations, the after-the-talk-talks are something I carry with me. They’re like beautiful gifts from foreign lands.
During my travels, one common topic on people’s minds was Canada’s recent legalization of marijuana. Canada is only the second country in the entire world to do this and the first G7 nation. From a seed science perspective, I can’t help but wonder how this change in law might not only affect the market for marijuana seeds, but for their cousins the hemp seed as well.
First, let’s make a distinction between the two. They are often largely misunderstood.
Both marijuana and hemp come from the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp has a very low THC chemical make-up, less than 0.3%, so it has no psychoactive effects. It can grow in most any climate. Hemp is considered a super food because it is so rich in omega-3s and -6s, protein and fiber. It has a variety of health benefits across many categories.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has a much higher THC content, between 5% and 35%, so it does have psychoactive effects. It’s grown in a carefully controlled atmosphere and is used mainly for medicinal and recreational use. Medicinal cannabis-based products, like CBD oils contain cannabinoids that come from the flower, leaves, stems and stalks of plants. But the marijuana seeds themselves are eaten purely for health and nutritional benefits. They do not produce the “high” associated with marijuana.
Herbalists and physicians dating back to the 17th century have recommended hemp seeds for a variety of ailments and therapeutic uses, but they have been largely ignored in modern medical practice. But why? Is there too much of a hemp seed misunderstanding? Too much association with something they are not? The truth about hemp seeds is that it have a very rich nutritional profile.
Hemp seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium and potassium. They are also a great source of B vitamins, zinc and iron. They contain antioxidants, and the shells themselves are very rich in fiber. The heart healthy fatty acids in hemp can not only help to reduce the risk of heart disease, they also help to reduce inflammation in the body as well.
In June of 2018, the wide-ranging agriculture and food policy legislation known as the Farm Bill, passed by a vote of 86 – 11 in the United States. This bill contains provisions to legalize the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp.
This action has been monumental for the little hemp seed, which for years had been banned under the US Marijuana prohibition laws. The legalization of hemp would mean that hemp plants will soon be eligible for crop insurance as well.
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled on one of his election promises by legalizing sales of certain forms of cannabis beginning on October 17th. Cannabis oil, plants, seeds for cultivation and fresh or dried cannabis will be allowed initially. Other products will follow.
Time will tell which countries will follow in Canada’s footsteps as the topic continues to be discussed on a global scale. In terms of seed nutrition, clearly more education needs to happen and more research must be conducted to help countries uncover the truths and demystify the rumors. It will be very interesting to see how this all pans out. Right now it feels like a giant research experiment, with the entire world anxiously awaiting its results.
By Dr. Christina Rahm Cook, Chairman ISNS