Industrial hemp and circular economy


Industrial hemp and circular economy. A promising agricultural supply chain-rooted on a culture for which Italy boasts historical and productive primacy, second only to the Soviet Union until the postwar period-is in danger of going up in smoke. Along with the yellow-green government that has screwed up the faithful application of state laws and applicable European regulations. Without getting lost in the moonshine of out-of-context politicians and judges, which have already been refuted by those in the legal profession, it is time to look ahead. To foster the recovery of a vibrant and vital economic sector as we await the next planting season.

Industrial hemp and circular economy

Cannabis sativa L. is a dioecious (that is, it generates both male and female plants) flowering annual plant. It belongs to the Cannabaceae family, which includes 11 genera and 170 species of plants. The first appearance of Cannabis is traced back to around 5000 B.C., in Central Asia. Over the millennia, the plant has been used predominantly for fiber, textile production, oil (including for fuel) and therapeutic uses. Indeed, it contains numerous compounds of proven health benefits such as cannabinoids (Appendino, Chianese and Taglialatela-Scafati, 2011), terpenes (Ross & ElSohly, 1996), flavonoids (Vanhoenacker, Van Rompaey, De Keukeleire and Sandra, 2002) and other substances (Brenneisen, 2007).

The circular economy is the model of sustainable development to which this crop is naturally suited. In agriculture it lends itself to reducing the ecological impact of human activities and decreasing the consumption of soil and water, compared with many other arable crops. It can therefore help mitigate climate change and desertification, so also help preserve biodiversity. It is profitable for farmers, lending itself to rotations as well as to replace surplus or unprofitable crops.

Seeds, flowers and leaves lend themselves to valuable uses in food, nutraceuticals, phytotherapy and cosmetics. Stems and residues from nobler processing can instead be used to make textiles, green building materials, bioplastics, and soil conditioners for agricultural uses. Last but not least, biomass to generate energy. Zero waste.

Cannabinoids are a unique class of terpenophenolic compounds for cannabis plants, accumulated mainly in the trichome cavity (Kim & Mahlberg, 1997). More than 80 cannabinoids have been isolated from C. sativa (Elsohly & Slade, 2005).

Cannabis sativa L., botanical classification

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) – Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician known as ‘the father of modern taxonomy’ – was the first to record the use of Latin binomials to classify plants. With the Specie Plantarum (1753), the starting point of modern botanical nomenclature. The species name, from Latin cannăbis (reed), is inspired by the morphology of the stem. The genus name – Sativa, from sativus (derivative of satus, past participle of serĕre, to sow) indicates gamic or sexual propagation, from seed (Raman, 1998).

‘And I’ll sing the canape, and the true culture Of so noble a sapling, that in the fields of Italy, and moreover elsewhere, In the Felsine soil, and in the neighboring centese most flourishing enclosure, (where is a land, that city may be called, as much in itself, and in its worthy and illustrious inhabitants today is prized in the world) rises and verdant, and forests form shady, when the fervent season begins to bake the air, and until the Lion roars in the sky, lasts to make shade on the earth‘. (Girolamo Baruffaldi, presbyter and man of letters, 1675- 1755)

Cannabis, according to the modern classification system, belongs to the family Cannabaceae, along with the genus Humulus, of which hops is a member (Turner, Elsohly and Boeren, 1980). Over the centuries, through the natural increase of genetic varieties in populations and human-led selections, different varieties of hemp have been developed. This has given rise to various debates, in botany, that have failed to reach general agreement on the taxonomic rank of various groups within the genus Cannabis (Hazekamp, Justin, Lubbe, & Ruhaak, 2010).

More recent taxonomic studies, (1) based on molecular analysis (chemotaxonomy), divide phenotypes based on quantitative differences in the ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabinol (CBN), on the one hand, and cannabidiol (CBD), on the other. (2) Based on these studies, it is currently considered appropriate to classify hemp in relation to industrial, medical or dietary and recreational supplement use.

Cannabis sativa L., permitted varieties and aid in agriculture

In Europe, only Cannabis Sativa L. (‘raw, retted, scutching, combed or otherwise prepared but not spun hemp‘) qualifies as an ‘agricultural product.’ And is therefore subject to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). (3). Reg. EC 73/09, in line with reg. EC 1782/03, specifies that agricultural aid is allowed ‘only if the varieties grown have a tetrahydrocannabinol content of no more than 0.2 percent.’ (4) Reg. EU 220/15 in turn mentions hemp among ‘industrial plants’ with regard to seed production and crops.

Therefore, cultivation is allowed and eligible for aid under the CAP. Provided that the cultivated plants belong to the botanical species included in the Single European Catalogue of Approved Varieties. (5) Which were selected because of their low content of psychotropic substances (THC). And so, of the safety of products derived from them. In any case, it is recommended that operators take the measures and cautions outlined in previous article on the subject.

Dario Dongo


(1) Taxonomy, in the natural sciences, includes the rules of nomenclature and techniques for the theoretical study of the phylogenetic classification of living things. Originally based on primarily morphological and morphometric criteria, this branch of science now also uses biomolecular, physiological, and serological analysis techniques, with the help of statistical tools

(2) If the (THC + CBN) / CBD ratio is less than 1, the plants are classified as a fiber type. Otherwise as ‘chemo-type,’ for pharmaceutical use or (Fetterman et al., 1971). This approach was then followed to distinguish chemotype, intermediate type, and fiber type (Turner, Cheng, Lewis, Russell, & Sharma, 1979)

(3) TFEU, Art. 38 and All. I, v.d. 57.01

(4) See reg. EC 1782/03 (art. 52), reg. EC 73/09 (cons. 29, arts. 39 and 87). Reg. EC 73/09 introduces control measures to analyze THC content, including to verify accessibility to national economic benefits (All. I). The same criteria are then taken up by reg. EU 1307/13 laying down rules on direct payments to farmers under support schemes under the common agricultural policy. Where it is indeed reiterated that ‘areas used for hemp production are eligible hectares only if the tetrahydrocannabinol content of the cultivated varieties does not exceed 0.2 percent‘ (EU Reg. 1307/13, Art. 22.6)

(5) See index_en.htm

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.