After a family history spanning centuries of farming and cheese making, an Italian farmer lost his herd of 600 overnight because of meat contamination. Vincenzo Fornaro turned to hemp to restore the land that has belonged to his family for generations, and hopes to be able to farm livestock again one day. Industrial hemp is at the heart of his optimism.
CBS News went to visit him, and reported on the situation caused by Europe’s biggest steel plant, only a few miles away from Fornaro’s farm. The region, once famous for cheese making, is now a place to grow industrial hemp, the variety of cannabis low in THC. Farmers use cannabis to decontaminate polluted soil and the fibers are used to make textiles.
The Italian government uncovered contamination of the soil in the region in 2008 after finding dioxin in the meat from Fornaro’s sheep. Authorities ordered him to slaughter his entire herd.
The experiment Fornaro started by planting hemp to draw the toxins from the soil is called phytoremediation. The fast-growing cannabis plant draws the toxins into its roots and stores it, or in some cases, it transforms the toxins into nontoxic compounds the plant uses to grow.
A selection of our products
Industrial hemp cleans up after pollution disasters
When journalists asked Fornaro if he thinks marijuana can restore his farm, he said he is completely convinced that it will. His crop is past harvest time and looks wilted, but phytoremediation has the proven ability to draw toxins and heavy metals from the earth. Experts recommended cannabis after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster to remove strontium and cesium from the soil.
Thousands of products are made from industrial hemp, including pasta, beer and hemp oil. Claudio Natile sells some hemp products and says it is vital that the prejudice against cannabis, especially hemp, be eliminated. He took the CBS news team to an apartment building built from hemp composite materials. To prove a point, it has hemp growing in the garden of the building.
Innovation and ecologically sound principles
Fornaro believes we must be innovative and promote ecologically sound solutions. It is because of the very unsound practices of the steel factory that Fornaro has to look to an alternative future with a very controversial plant.
The fact is, hemp shouldn’t be controversial. It doesn’t make people high and it is a very versatile agricultural crop. The fact that there are many different strains of the cannabis plant is not so difficult to understand. Roses can be red or pink and we understand they are all still roses. Why can’t we understand that cannabis can contain high or low levels of THC?
Cannabis is the future
Cannabis can provide fuel, food, textiles, building materials, cosmetic products and so much more. It can clean the soil and it can also clean the air because fast-growing plants take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to turn into biomass. There are so many things wrong with the earth and its inhabitants that hemp could fix. As modern humans reawaken their awareness of an ancient crop, a greener, healthier future could lie in store.