From 1st of January 2023 there will finally be regulations in Europe concerning Δ9-THC limits in food grade hemp products.
Up to now, there have only been guidance’s. Guidance’s of course as you know, can be taken into consideration and interpret as it is fit for anyone.
From 1st of January 2023 the new regulations concerning hemp seeds, hemp seed oil and some additional products (other hemp seed derived/processed products) are as follows:
In Section 8 of the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, the following entry 8.6 is added:
of 11 August 2022
|Foodstuffs||Maximum level (mg/kg)|
|‘8.6.||Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) equivalents (*1)|
|8.6.2.||Ground hemp seeds, (partially) defatted hemp seed and other hemp seed derived/processed products (*2) with the exception of the products referred to in 8.6.3.||3,0|
|8.6.3.||Hemp seed oil||7,5|
(*1) the maximum level refers to the sum of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ9-THCA), expressed as Δ9-THC. A factor of 0,877 is applied to the level of Δ9-THCA and the maximum level refers to the sum of Δ9-THC + 0,877 x Δ9-THCA (in case of a separate determination and quantification of Δ9-THC and Δ9-THCA).
(*2) hemp seed derived/processed products are products derived/processed exclusively from hemp seeds.’
The full regulation (source) is available -> here
What about the products that were produced in 2022?
The products from hemp seeds which were marketed before 1st of January 2023, can stay on the market until the expiration date arrives.
How does the new regulation come in to play in the growing process?
As the new regulation sets a new standard of 3 mg/kg which applies to hemp seeds then actually the THC level on the field increased from 0,2% to 0,3%. As it was from 1976 to 1999. Since this reduction put Europe at a competitive disadvantage in the industry it was restored.
So, the THC of growing hemp on the field can be higher, but the THC level in the final products is lower than the guideline stated before (5mg/kg).
By increasing the THC level of hemp crops from 0,2% to 0,3% on the field, the farmers are now able to grow more varieties for industrial purposes in Europe. For the industry it’s great, the farmers can now grow more vital hemp crops, develop better fibers, stalks, etc.
When it comes to growing hemp for the purpose of seeds, this doesn’t make any difference at all.
A quick example:
0,3% of THC on the field is 3000 mg/kg
0,0003% of THC is 3 mg/kg
So in summary, the farmers are able to choose from 7 times more varieties than before, but if the purpose is to grow hemp for seeds, it actually narrows the options even more.
Varieties to choose for the future
Since the THC level must be lower in the final products as ever before, it already brings changes to the market. For starters, the variety used for growing hemp will be one of the key factors when deciding if to grow hemp at all. There are a lot of varieties used to grow hemp, but the ones with low THC will probably come more popular thanks to the new regulation.
Fiber varieties are known for low THC, but compared to oilseed varieties one can argue about the taste of seeds and oil. Also, fiber variety plants are higher when grown, so harvesting will be more “challenging”.
We already started to think about the THC regulations years ago, that’s why we developed the variety Estica. Since nature is impossible to control, you can only do anything possible to minimize the risks and hope for the best. With Estica the THC levels have been low every year averaging below 1 mg/kg for the last five years.
It’s perfect for our needs, and considering the new regulations, it was a great decision.
Of course, there are a lot of varieties from which to choose from, but if you already have some experiences with high THC, it’s one variety to consider.
After all, if you grow hemp for the purpose of seeds, you probably want to use the seeds as food grade, and not to risk the chance that the seeds are out of spec after harvest.
Feed Grade hemp seeds
If you’ve read the new regulation, it’s unclear today what will happen to feed grade hemp seeds.
Shall the same limits apply to feed grade seeds?
There is already some chatter, if the regulations will be the same, or a bit higher. Currently no decision has been made. But it makes you wonder, how for example the birds can eat the seeds on the field, where possibly the THC is over the limit and everything is ok. But after harvesting (drying, sorting, laboratory analyses etc.) the THC is for example too high, and after all the effort and money the crop is useless.
This would probably even the price gap between feed grade and food grade hemp seeds as well. Or, new markets open for all that produce.
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil has the new regulation of 7,5 mg/kg THC limit not 3 mg/kg. Why is that?
Actually, it’s quite simple.
The oil is made by cold pressing hemp seeds to extract the oil. During this process the value of THC in hemp seed oil rises (simply put). In the process, actually the THC concentrates into the oil, which means the analyses will show higher content of it.
Finally there are clear regulations concerning THC in the final hemp products in Europe. The farmers are able to choose between more varieties than before thanks to 0,2% of THC upgrade to 0,3% on the field. It enables to grow more varieties and is great for the industry depending on what is the purpose of growing hemp. The increase doesn’t play any role when it comes to growing hemp with the purpose of harvesting the seeds. THC on the field can now be higher, but it has to be lower than ever in food grade final products. Difference being 10000 times (THC on the field vs in food). The decision to choose a variety to grow hemp for seeds, is more important than ever. The future of feed grade hemp seeds is still foggy.
Think it through and let’s make hemp great again!