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Hemp is pesticide-free by nature

Workers spraying pesticides on a field in India
Workers spraying pesticides on a field in India

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One of the main reasons we want to bring hemp into the merch market is that it is by far friendlier to the people involved in its production and to the environment than cotton. Why?

 

Cotton is a sissy. It is very susceptible to illnesses and pests. The widespread monocropping, in part due to cotton’s long maturation cycle, makes this only worse. As a result, you will not find any crop that is more heavily polluted with pesticides than cotton. In India for example, which is the biggest cotton producer on Earth, more than half of all the pesticides used in the country go to cotton cultivation, although cotton covers only 5% of the country’s arable land.[1] Globally the relations are similar. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and other harmful chemicals, but its market share has been stagnating at around 0.5% for years now - and it has its downsides, too, which we will cover in a later post.

 

Cotton’s need for pesticides is a problem because farmers and field workers in middle- and low-income countries - including many children and also pregnant women - often cannot afford protective measures or means to store the stuff safely. Sometimes they even cannot read the safety warnings on the packages, which are often in English only. The result: acute or chronic pesticide poisoning. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the number of pesticide poisonings to be up to 5 million per year, causing 20,000 fatalities[2] and a host of medical conditions, including cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. If you follow the Indian news, you can regularly read about fatal pesticide accidents - as well as about suicides farmers commit because the pesticides, together with the respective genetically modified crops, cost money and can bring them into a vicious cycle of debt. Also among non-farmers, pesticide poisoning is the leading method of suicide throughout the country.

 

Also, these toxins accumulate in the environment and can be found in the groundwater or even the food grown in the affected regions. And of course, this heavy chemical use is not very good for biodiversity and soil health, either.[3]

 

Hemp, on the other hand, needs no pesticides. You read right. Hemp is one of the most resistant plants nature has ever brought forth, and one of its greatest advantages as a crop is that it needs no plant protection. Why is this?

 

You have probably heard of THC, the substance in cannabis that gives you the high. THC is just one of over 100 substances called cannabinoids. These act as a natural protection against most insects, fungae, microbes and other organisms that would otherwise harm hemp.[4] There are just a few fungae that can harm hemp, and this does not happen often. So farmers who grow hemp can usually take protection against diseases and pests out of their calculation.

 

Also, hemp grows extremely fast and quickly smothers all other weeds (there’s a reason why hemp itself is called ‘weed’).[4] So no herbicides needed, either - bye, bye glyphosate!

 

 

Nachweise:
[1] Röling, Niels/Ahmad, Iftikhar/Chatterji, Sandhya/Laurense, Alida/Margraf, Josef/Moore, Robert (2004): FAO/EU Integrated Pest Management Programme for Cotton in Asia, Final Review Report, Bangkok, S. 35.

[2] Chemicals Programme of the United Nations Environmental Programm (UNEP Chemicals) (2004): Childhood Pesticide Poisoning. Information for Advocacy and Action, Châtelaine, S. 7.

[3] Cherrett, Nia/Barrett, John/Clemett, Alexandra/Chadwick, Mattes/Chadwick, M.J. (2005): Ecological Footprint and Water Analysis of Cotton, Hemp and Polyester, Stockholm, S. 9.

[4] Desanlis, Francois/Cerruti, Nicolas/Warner, Philip (2013): Hemp Agronomics and Cultivation, in: Bouloc, Pierre (Hrsg.): Hemp. Industrial Production and Uses, Oxfordshire/Boston, S. 98-124.