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Talking about hemp with EIHA—podcast

Audio-Talking about hemp with EIHA—podcast

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) shares commercial opportunities for hemp and key industry updates.

For this podcast episode, Lorenza Romanese, the managing director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) joined us to share more hemp.

Tune in to hear about:

  • The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) and its mission
  • Why should business owners in the nutraceutical and functional food/beverage industry take a chance on hemp?
  • The legal situation for CBD and other hemp food products
  • The work EIHA is undertaking to provide science-based information when it comes to the level of safety of hemp food products
  • Insights on the future of hemp foods and food supplements in Europe


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Lorenza Romanese

Managing director of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA)

Lorenza is the Managing Director of  EIHA. Based in EIHA’s Brussels office, Lorenza is a veteran policy advisor and communication manager at the European level. She has led EIHA’s efforts in Brussels since February 2019, having worked with a number of MEPs to propose reforms affecting hemp in the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy. Lorenza previously advised interests in the oil and gas sector and led the European Association of independent Winegrowers.

If you do like the show, make sure to subscribe and follow the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Feel free also to recommend the show to a friend that you think would enjoy it.

Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer

Natalia 00:23
Hello and welcome to another Vitafoods Insights Podcast episode. Today we'll be talking about hemp and I'm delighted to be joined by Lorenza Romanese, who is the managing director of the European Industrial Hemp Association. Thanks for joining me today Lorenza.

Lorenza 00:38
Hello, good afternoon to everybody.

Natalia 00:40
So to just start us off Lorenza, can you explain to us who is the European Industrial Hemp Association and what is its mission?

Lorenza 00:47
We are an association doing lobbying and advocacy in Brussels. We are indeed sitting in Brussels; we have a smaller office in the European Cartier, and our target is to advocate for hemp and its derived product within the European Union- more precisely Commission, European Parliament and somehow as well Council. Our mission, as I said, is to advocate and to obtain positive regulatory framework for hemp and its derived product in Europe, as much as more harmonised as we can in order to avoid different approach coming from member state. We defend and represent mainly three categories of operators dealing with hemp: the producers of hemp, the processing companies and the traders. We count today nearly 400 members, and the reason why the companies are joining us, basically is to have direct straight information coming from the European Union. But at the same time, European Industrial Hemp Association serves as a platform where the operator can raise their issues and if we can try then to solve their issues at the European level.

Natalia 01:55
Thanks for that overview. Now focusing more on hemp itself, why should business owners in the nutraceutical and functional food beverage industry take a chance on hemp?

Lorenza 02:05
Because it's a trendy topic and because it's one of the most growing sector, agricultural sector in the last decades; because it's green, because it helps the environment; because we do not use pesticides neither fertilise or a little bit. And because it's a good opportunity for business. The product we're currently selling in Europe perfectly match the trends of the consumers because it's organic, it's locally produced, and because it's in line as well, with all the major policies coming from the European Union, namely the Green Deal. It's a growing sector. So, there are some opportunities; is interesting to join now, which is the beginning, before all the opportunities are gone. And because it's quite exciting, it's an interesting crop. I would suggest that these are the main reason why we should look at the sector today.

Natalia 02:58
And with regards to the regulatory landscape, what is the legal situation for CBD and other hemp food products?

Lorenza 03:07
Well, this is a complicated question because there is not a legal certainty around the hemp and its derived product in Europe, and this is our main problem. Our sector is facing changing regulations. So, this is why it is so important to be all federated together and to advocate for asking a clear regulatory framework which should be stable in the years. Because if we look for instance at hemp extract, so the extract that can be full spectrum max at or isolated which is a single compound that has been isolated from the hemp plant, the regulatory status around this product have been changing in the last 1020 years. hemp extract were considered traditional food till the 1997 European industrial hemp Association received to read and confirmation to the fact that hemp was food, then suddenly it was considered as a novel food. When you are a novel food you need to perform some tests in order to get some premarket authorization before marketing this product. Last year, hemp sadly has become a narcotic, according to the reading of the European Commission. And then the European Commission with the member state they have changed their mind saying that hemp can be finally a food and of course, there are some legal cases namely, the cannaboid court case that are helping the regulators but as well as the sector to define a more stable legal framework. So they start use of hemp products are different according to the parts of the plants that we are talking about. I gave the example of the hemp extract because it's the trendy topic, but when it comes to hemp seeds, we have as well clear rule that that needs to be respected especially in terms of contamination of some cannabinoids, more precisely THC in the final product, so the operator have to make sure that their product contains these maximum level that have been decided by the European food safety authorities. And when it comes to stocks and fibres, we are seeing less regulatory issues. These products are completely legal and can be exploited by the operator. So, the regulatory framework around hemp is evolving. Sometimes we are experiencing positive evolution. But sometimes we have to make sure that there are no steps backs like the one that happened on hemp extract last year. But again, I would like to underline and take this occasion to underline one more time how much important is that all the operators stick together and advocate for a clear message to obtain a positive regulatory framework that is stable and that will not change over time because with the regulatory changes that we have experienced in the last 10 years, the sector is not growing so stably as we would like to. Then in some words could be spent as well for cosmetics, as well cosmetics containing hemp that I am parts or hemp products have been evolved as well in the last years. And now finally, we can commercialise and we can clearly trade hemp products containing cannaboidial or other cannabinoids in Europe, but again, was not always so clear in the last two years. Even cosmetics was for a short period ban, but now is it legal? So, as you can see, it's a it's a regulatory evolution going on around hemp in Europe.

Natalia 06:41
That's so interesting. And it definitely sounds like there is a lot happening around hemp and regulations, products, testing and even cosmetics as you mentioned. Now, can you explain to us a little bit more what is the European Industrial Hemp Association doing to provide science-based information when it comes to this level of safety of hemp food products?

Lorenza 07:06
We are running a very big project. It's a project that will last couple of years and basically with all our members we collected a big amount of money which is goes up to 3.5 million of euros, and this money will be invested into toxicological studies for both CBD cannabidoil and THC, which is quite well known. So by running toxicological studies, our aim is to reach a maximum safety level that we would like to communicate to the European Food Safety Authority, but as well to the European Commission to establish clear rules. So far, we have started all the toxicological studies already in January 2021. Doc studies are quite a long process so all the results will come by the end of the year beginning of 2022. So our target within the European industrial hemp association is to grasp scientific knowledge and to have scientific findings to be delivered to the authorities in order to create fair regulation. So this is the biggest project that we are currently running within the European industrial hemp Association in need to serve all these value will be used for a clear marketability of hemp extract but as well, food derived from hemp. When I said food derived from hemp, is from the seeds, while I'm speaking for the extract it's more linked to the flowers and the leaves of cannabis.

Natalia 08:35
I'm glad to hear more is being invested in the science behind hemp and this toxicologic studies' project that you've mentioned. And I'm sure our listeners would also be very much interested to find out more: how do you see the future of hemp foods and food supplements in Europe?

Lorenza 08:52
Positive and radiant and of course. Well, we have started a long procedure, we are start discussing with European Union institution as I said more than once to establish a clear framework for hemp. So, if we keep working well and if we are keep working with European Union institution, we could at certain point reach a same level playing field for Europe like the other competitors like Canada or US. So, in this moment, there will be a real European hemp sector and industry. So, the future will much more depends as well on the political will of member state and of course on the results of the finding of our toxicological studies because we have to match more than one criteria to have a bright future. As I said, we need to have the political will, we need to educate member state, we need to educate as well our operators and our consumers towards hemp derived product because sometimes it tend to be misleaded that as well with marijuana. So it's a long journey, but it's in a good shape, I will say, I've experienced bad time in the past, but now I'm seeing the future a little bit brighter than a couple of years ago.

Natalia 10:06
Thanks, Lorenza, for providing us with such great insights about hemp and all of its developments in the industry. I'm sure it's also very helpful for our audience to listen to that, as well as keep updated with all the projects in the science and regulations that you've talked about today. So thank you so much for sharing. And before we end the show, and this enjoyable conversation, do you have any final thoughts that you'd like to share with our listeners?

Lorenza 10:31
I will simply add that if you do have any question about the European industrial hemp Association, about who we are or what we do, feel free to contact us. So you can always check what we publish on our website and if it's not clear get back to us. The important is that the operators that are deciding to join the hemp revolution are well informed because of this problem with the regulator that are currently changing. So a well informed operator is a safer operator. So please join EHIA contribute to the hemp revolution. And we are looking forward to receive your feedback.

Natalia 11:07
What a great way to end the show. And thanks again Lorenza for coming on the show and sharing all of this great insights about hemp and what the association is doing. I'm sure a lot of our listeners will join the hemp revolution. Thank you for coming over and thank you also to our listeners for tuning in. If you're interested in learning more about the European industrial hemp Association, do make sure to check out their website hyperlink available in the show notes. And if you do like the show, make sure to subscribe, follow the podcast and feel free also to recommend the show to any friends or colleagues you think would like it. Thank you again Lorenza.

Lorenza 11:42
Thank you.

Natalia 11:43
See you next time