EIHA – The voice of the European hemp industry
The European Industrial Hemp Association champions hemp regulation across the EU, setting an example of what a unified industry voice can achieve. Over the past 20 years, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has worked to establish a viable hemp industry in Europe. EIHA's message to the hemp world is clear: "Having too many associations dilutes their messages, weakens the important points," says Lorenza Romanese, EIHA's chief executive, adding that having "one centralized association allows a stronger and more unified presence. »
THEEIHA is a membership organization that represents the common interests of hemp farmers, growers and traders working with fiber, shives (hurd), seeds, flowers and cannabinoids in the European Union (EU).
Farmers in the EU operate within their country's agricultural system, just as US producers operate within their state. EIHA responds to the goals and concerns of farmers from different backgrounds by promoting regulations that benefit the European hemp industry as a whole.
Some European laws are binding and must be followed, while others are recommendations. Member states can establish their own legislation. However, most members follow EU directives, and what is decided in the European Parliament, the directly elected legislative body of the EU, is ultimately important for all hemp growers in Europe.
The EIHA helps set international standards by identifying barriers that limit the European hemp industry, explaining to EU lawmakers why it is important to establish transparent regulations based on scientific evidence, and building the Majority support needed to implement the change.
EIHA has helped bring about changes that allow European farmers to grow hemp profitably while increasing production. North American and international groups seeking similar change can learn by emulating the successes of EIHA.
From the beginning
The EIHA was founded in Cologne, Germany, in 2002. Since its launch, its network has grown and established itself in more than 25 of the 27 EU Member States and in 12 non-member countries. EU, including some states in North America and parts of Asia and the Pacific.
EIHA moved its main office to Brussels, Belgium in 2019 to foster closer contact with EU institutions and better lobby for the future of hemp in Europe.
Today, the association acts on behalf of more than 250 members, representing the entire industrial hemp production chain, from the seed to your home.
fight for change
The organization has already achieved many successes in the evolution of European regulations.
In October 2020, the European Parliament endorsed a law restoring the maximum THC level of hemp crops in open fields, from 0,2% to 0,3% by dry weight. A few months later, after the EIHA had several discussions in order to reach a compromise, the notification of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was adopted.
This provision of the CAP will come into force in January 2023 and will give the possibility to farmers to receive subsidies for the cultivation of hemp varieties registered in the EU catalog with a maximum level of 0,3% THC. The levels of THC authorized for the cultivation of hemp vary according to the countries of the European Union, for example in Italy the maximum authorized rate is 0,6%, in the Czech Republic it is 1%, it should be noted that the farmers of those countries that grow seeds other than those validated by the EU will not receive subsidies.
"Little by little, we are creating a true single hemp market for Europe and doing our best to make life easier for hemp producers and processors," said Lorenza Romanese, general manager of the association.
The EIHA's long battle with the EU over THC levels has been going on for a decade. In a press release published last year, Lorenza Romanese explained: “I am proud of what has been achieved. We have worked hard to ensure that hemp gets the recognition it deserves in the common agricultural policy. I would say that this small step shows that EU lawmakers are closer to fully recognizing the existence of a legitimate European hemp industry. »
According to the press release, the main fight of the EIHA is to have hemp recognized as an agricultural crop like any other and that hemp is not a plant that would only be used for drugs. Members of the association want a transparent policy, based on science, which would allow the European sector to thrive.
As it stands, all EU countries have their own regulations regarding CBD. Some countries regulate various CBD products under their drug laws, while other countries regulate it as a dietary supplement.
“Hemp is the only agricultural plant that is divisible into parts, the flower, the seeds and the fiber, with different chemical limits. Yet the poppy seed industry is not required to respect the authorized limits of opiates” Explain Romanese.
Since the CBD market is growing, it is important to have a consistent approach for all parts of the plant as well as for all products that can be extracted from hemp. Today some growers may want to grow hemp for CBD rather than seeds or fiber.
Mrs Romanese raises another complex subject which is a challenge for the EIHA. Although in their natural state, the seeds and oils do not contain THC, this being produced by the flowers and, let us remember, regulated at a maximum rate of 0,3%, but at the time of harvest, the seeds can potentially contain traces of THC above the standards and which will end up in the finished product.
The EU has set limits for THC in food, which are now in line with international markets, but EIHA plans to continue working with clinical toxicologists to better understand the toxicity limits of cannabinoids, including CBD and other minor cannabinoids in the human diet.
The commercialization of minor cannabinoids also has many limitations
For example, since 2019, CBD extract from hemp flowers has been classified as a "novel food". A novel food is defined as food that had not been consumed to a significant degree by humans in the EU before May 15, 1997, when the first regulation was enacted, Romanese explains.
"We are here to unleash the full potential of hemp and discuss together how to get the most out of all its applications, from textiles to composites, food, dietary supplements and medicines", – Daniel Kruse, President of the EIHA.
For a product to be classified as a novel food, a company must obtain “pre-market authorization” by providing scientific data, including a safety assessment report. The EIHA helps companies in this long and costly process.
The EIHA also organizes an annual international conference attended by people from all over the world. Since its creation, it has been based in Cologne, but this year it will take place in Brussels on June 21 and 22.
Last year's 18th Annual Conference was a three-day online event with the theme “Hemp for Europe: Emerging Opportunities for Green Recovery”. Representatives of the European Parliament and the EC participated in the event for the first time as keynote speakers and panelists. They underlined the vital role hemp plays as a carbon-neutral crop – a key step towards achieving the environmental protection targets of the EU Green Deal.
"I think the future of hemp textile fibers will be in the production of non-woven fabrics for agricultural uses and packaging, as well as in woven blends with different fibers," says Francesco. “While there is market demand for European hemp fibre, there are no centralized producers, supply is dispersed and new processing facilities are needed to meet growing demand for hemp fibre. and shavings products. »
The hemp industry must increasingly collaborate with research institutions and policy makers to educate and raise awareness of how hemp could provide innovative solutions. Welcoming members from diverse backgrounds into a single organization, as EIHA has done, is a necessary challenge. While hemp is beneficial for many uses, without a centralized voice these small factions risk going unheard and decision makers risk going uninformed.