GOVERNMENTS SUPPORT HEMP RESEARCH FOR USE IN MEDICAL AND BIO-PRODUCT INDUSTRIES


November 5, 2014

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DAUPHIN—New research focused on the medicinal properties of hemp as well as its use in the biofibre industry will receive more than $198,000 under Growing Forward 2 as part of governments’ commitment to research, innovation and regional development. The funding was announced today by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron Kostyshyn and Member of Parliament for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Robert Sopuck, on behalf of Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

“Hemp is an important driver of the local economy in the Parkland region, for farmers, processors and many others,” said Minister Kostyshyn. “This research shines a light on new opportunities for hemp growers in our province, building on our reputation for excellence which is acknowledged around the world. Through strategic research and investment, Manitoba will remain a leader in nutraceuticals, functional foods and biofibre, which means good jobs for families in the Parkland.”

The project, led by Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers (PIHG), will test existing varieties of hemp for levels of cannabidol, a compound believed to have a number of positive health effects. Once the level of cannabidol in current hemp varieties is known, work will begin to develop a new variety with higher levels. The ability to market hemp as a functional food and for its health benefits would create additional value for growers and the industry.

“Our government is proud to support hemp industry research to study the health benefits and biofibre potential from this emerging crop,” said MP Sopuck. “This investment will create additional opportunities for hemp producers and processors to expand their markets and sell their products across Canada and around the world.”

PIHG notes this is the first time cannabidol levels will be studied in Canadian hemp varieties. While additional medical research is needed to verify their health benefits, cannabidols may help people with a range of conditions, including schizophrenia, anxiety, convulsions and nausea.

“We see the potential in the cannabidols found in hemp,” said Chris Dzisiak, PIHG chair. “This initiative is proactive, to have varieties evaluated and available when the health research, legislation and licensing is ready for the use of cannabidols. This builds on our aggressive plant breeding program, which until now has focused on high yielding, large seeded grain and fibre varieties adapted to Manitoba and Western Canada with the assistance of the federal and provincial governments.”

The research project will also measure fibre content in existing hemp varieties. Hemp fibre is used in biomass products and the industry has identified the need to develop varieties with higher and more consistent fibre content as a priority.

This project is one of 32 funded this year through Growing Innovation – Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative (GI-ARDI) under Growing Forward 2. In total, more than $3.2 million will be invested in industry-led research for the crops, livestock, agri-environment and food sectors. For more information about GI-ARDI, visit www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture under Growing Forward 2.

The federal and provincial governments are investing $176 million in Manitoba under Growing Forward 2, a five-year, federal-provincial-territorial policy framework to advance the agriculture industry, helping producers and processors become more innovative and competitive in world markets.

Hemp and marijuana are two different strains of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp has low, government-regulated levels of the psychoactive compound called THC and currently has no approved medical use. Its seeds, fibre and oil are used in a variety of products, including food, rope, paper products, cosmetics and biofuel. Marijuana is federally regulated for medicinal purposes. More information about industrial hemp production in Manitoba is available at www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/production/hemp.html. PIHG has run a plant breeding program to develop industrial hemp varieties suited to growing conditions in Manitoba and the rest of Canada since 2002.