The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) is a supporting organization of the International Year of Natural Fibers (IYNF) 2009, which is a program of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The public awareness campaign officially gets underway in Rome on January 22, 2009. The IYNF launch is the beginning of a year-long series of events across the globe that will seek to support farmers and associated industries in raising awareness of the benefits of natural fibers over synthetic and petroleum-based textiles, which are not viewed as sustainable.
According to the FAO, "Since the 1960s, the use of synthetic fibers has increased, and natural fibers have lost a lot of their market share. The main objective of the International Year of Natural Fibers is to raise the profile of these fibers, to emphasize their value to consumers while helping to sustain the incomes of the farmers. Promoting measures to improve the efficiency and sustainability of production is also an important aspect of the Year."
Industrial hemp has been grown for thousands of years to make fiber for clothing, furniture, ropes, sails and much more. As an agricultural crop, hemp is beneficial because it can be readily grown organically, as it does not require the use of harsh chemical herbicides, pesticides and defoliants as do many other fiber crops. While most hemp textiles today come from China, the crop continues to be grown for textiles in Eastern Europe and for other fiber uses across the globe.
The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers, which are among earth's longest natural soft fibers and are rich in cellulose. The cellulose and hemi-cellulose contained in the inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber. Oilseed and fiber varieties of hemp are not psychoactive and cannot be grown as a drug-producing crop. Hemp is currently not permitted to be grown in the United States, however, due to federal authorities' legal confusion of the plant's varieties.
"The Hemp Industries Association is excited that the United Nations is recognizing the importance of natural fibers to a sustainable future," says Eric Steenstra, HIA Executive Director. "Every day more and more consumers are choosing hemp-based textile products. We hope that 2009 will be a break-out year for hemp and other natural fiber textiles."
A number of HIA member companies sell sustainable hemp textiles, including EnviroTextiles, Hemp Basics and Hemp Traders. In addition, many other HIA members sell garments, shoes, accessories, building materials and a variety of other products made from hemp fiber and textiles.
The Hemp Industries Association (HIA) represents the interests of the hemp industry and encourages the research and development of new hemp products.