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Some bad buzz about hemp

In her Dec. 24 letter to the Aspen Times, Jackie Chenoweth of Carbondale extols the virtues of industrial hemp (“Hempy holidays to all”). She writes that it can help to heal our planet by replacing “fossil fuel based plastics, toxic building materials, synthetic fibers, harmful chemicals, etc., etc.” She calls hemp “an integral part of the solution” to climate change. So far, so good.

What she does not tell us is how hemp production impacts our pollinators. Poor or inadequate nutrition can be a major stress on pollinators — including honeybees and native bees. Wind-pollinated hemp flowers are rarely visited by bees or other pollinators. Alfalfa, on the other hand, is a rich and important nectar and pollen source for a host of bee species. It’s also one of the most common field crops in Western Colorado. That’s good for bees. Yet we are witnessing the relentless conversion of alfalfa ground to hemp, resulting in less food for pollinators.

Hemp holds the potential to dramatically alter our agricultural landscape. The press so far has been largely positive. But let’s all be aware of unintended consequences.

Ed Colby

President, Colorado State Beekeepers Association

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