Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Miracle Plant

The United States is the only developed country in the world today that prohibits its farmers from growing hemp, and our economy is suffering because of it. Once a staple of US agriculture, hemp is indeed a miracle plant that can be used for textiles, paper, food, fuel and — hold on to you hats — can produce eco-friendly versions of any product currently made from petroleum, including gasoline.

While the rest of the world is ramping up hemp production, in the US, where it remains illegal, companies must import the thousands of hemp products grown, processed and manufactured in more than 30 countries across the globe. Britain, Germany and Canada have all lifted their bans, and China, the source of most of the hemp fiber used by the US clothing industry, has planted nearly 2 million acres of hemp. In the European Union, farmers are subsidized to grow hemp, which is legally recognized as a commercial crop by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Most of America’s imported hemp products come from Canada, where hemp has been grown commercially since 1998 and has become one of the most profitable crops for its farmers. Agriculture expert Ray Hansen notes that while America farmers struggle to survive on less than $50 per acre for soy and corn, Canadian hemp farmers are raking in an average of $250 per acre.

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