New report highlights unique opportunity to build beneficial production systems for fiber hemp.
Textile Exchange releases Growing Hemp for the Future: A Global Fiber Guide.
The report looks at the production of fiber hemp around the world, identifying its benefits and concerns, providing recommendations to guide fiber hemp programs toward a resilient future.
Since its recent legalization in countries around the world, the global textile industry is increasingly turning to hemp, celebrating the plant’s ability to enhance soil health, support biodiversity, suppress weeds, and increase yields among subsequent crops – all while relying on little or no inputs.
Fiber hemp holds strong sustainability potential, but as it gains popularity, it is vital that we look at how it is grown. This means taking onboard lessons learned from other fiber crops, where heavy synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use have become the norm.
At this early stage, the industry has unique opportunity to shape fiber hemp standards from the soil up, setting up systems that maximize measurable benefits for the climate, ecosystems, and communities.
• Unlike other popular crops which have become reliant on synthetic pesticides, biological pesticides are to date the primary pesticides that governments have permitted for use on fiber hemp.
• Research is underway to add additional conventional pesticides to the limited fiber hemp pest management toolkit. In some countries, pesticides that meet the United Nation’s “Highly Hazardous” definition have already been approved for use on hemp. Availability and use of synthetic pesticides is likely to expand without industry commitment to the precautionary principle – exploring alternatives to possible harmful actions.
• Significant improvements need to be made to undertake and make public data that supports sustainability statements and identifies fiber hemp production regions and quantities.
• While data is incomplete, the leading hemp fiber countries by volume appear to be France, China, North Korea (estimated), Poland, and the United States.
• Sixty years of data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (1961-2021) indicates that 2021 fiber hemp production by volume was approximately the same level as in 1961 but grown on far less land with far greater efficiency, resulting in higher yields.
At present, there is limited information to support all sustainability claims related to fiber hemp, or to accurately identify where and how much is grown internationally. Further research is therefore needed to substantiate claims.
Textile Exchange urges the hemp sector to improve global production tracking; avoid the adoption of hazardous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers; and to become certified to organic and regenerative standards that provide a chain of custody from field to finished product.
About Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange is a global non-profit driving positive impact on climate change across the fashion, textile, and apparel industry. It guides a growing community of brands, manufacturers, and farmers towards more purposeful production from the very start of the supply chain.
Its goal is to help the industry to achieve a 45% reduction in the emissions that come from producing fibers and raw materials by 2030. To get there, it is keeping its focus holistic and interconnected, accelerating the adoption of practices that improve the state of our water, soil health, and biodiversity too.
For real change to happen, everyone needs a clear path to positive impact. That’s why Textile Exchange believes that approachable, step-by-step instruction paired with collective action can change the system to make preferred materials and fibers an accessible default, mobilizing leaders through attainable strategies, proven solutions, and a driven community.
At Textile Exchange, materials matter. To learn more, visit textileexchange.org.
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