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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Hemp for Fibres in Austria S2

Hess, J. ; Vogl, C. R. & Goldnagl, M.

Institute for Organic Farming, University of Agricultural Sciences (BOKU), 1180-Vienna, Austria

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A great demand for hemp fibre has been observed within the EU and in Austria also. This demand includes fibre from organically grown hemp. Initiatives are being realized to revive fibre hemp processing activities in Austria. About 300 ha of organic and conventional hemp were grown in Austria in 1995 for the first time since 1956. Different enterprises are developing fashionable collections of hemp based textiles. However, in 1995 it was not possible to harvest and process fibres mechanically either as long fibres or short fibres. This was due to the lack of appropriate machinery, facilities, a lack of experience and logistics. In 1996 it will be possible to process short fibre.

Hemp fibre and textiles sold on the Austrian market have come from Eastern Europe or Asia. In these countries there is no certified organic hemp production and all products must be considered non-organic. Nevertheless hemp products are presented as »natural«, »ecological« or even »organic«. Hemp is considered by hemp-activists as an »eco-resource« and a »miracle-plant«. We consider it better to see hemp as having a potential, without claiming that it is in general »superior« or more »ecological« than other plants. Hemp needs very good growing conditions to develop well. To achieve good performance, hemp is often treated with synthetic fertilizer and/or pesticides. The sustainable production of renewable resources is not compatible with the input of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or other direct or indirect inputs based on fossil energy. Awareness is growing that not only food, but also a wide variety of raw materials that our society needs must be produced in a sustainable way in order to build up a sustainable economy and society. Therefore, the non-food market based on agricultural raw materials as well as the production of these raw materials, inc. fibres, have to be regulated in a fashion similar to the way IFOAM-standards and EU-Regulation 2092/91 do this for food production.