Rape Seed II: Ready for RoundUp?

IMG_1586At last report, the Oregon Department of Agriculture was accepting comments on whether to allow canola, a.k.a. rapeseed, in the 3.7 million acre protected agricultural zone in the Willamette valley.

Canola can legally be grown in much of the state, but the protected zone is home to a $50 million/year specialty seed industry, and genetic purity drives the business.  Canola cross-pollinates with other crops, spreads easily and is notorious for transmitting disease and pests, so it’s a problem here. Also, although you won’t find this mentioned in official reporting, 95% percent of canola is genetically modified.  In Oregon, the Department of Agriculture doesn’t distinguish between GM and natural canola, hence no official discussion of  the matter, but the truth is, once Round-up Ready canola mixes with other brassica, it is darn near impossible to get rid of it.

Last fall the Oregon Department of Agriculture issued a quiet, some say sneaky, ruling (at 5 p.m. on a Friday night) allowing a temporary exception to the ban on canola, so farmers can grow it as a rotation crop and, with state and federal energy tax credits, to  press as an oil for fuel. Seed growers feared, with good reason, that temporarily admitting canola would mean a de facto end to international demand for organic cauliflower, broccoli, cabbages, mustards, kohlrabi and other brassica seed crops.

At a public hearing in September, 99% of the speakers, including biologists from Oregon State University, opposed allowing canola in the valley. Funny thing — while representatives from the big GM seed companies didn’t testify at the hearing, it’s hard to imagine a few weren’t around for the annual Farm Bureau Classic, a golf tournament sponsored by Monsanto, DOW and Syngenta, which was held the day before.

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Photo courtesy of Oregon Farm Bureau via Facebook

The Department of Agriculture issued a ruling allowing canola into part of the protected area. Undeterred, specialty seed crop farmers, biologists and activists kept the pressure on, and this week the Oregon House, rebuffed the Department of Agriculture and passed HB 2427, which would prohibit canola in the valley until 2019, and provide money to Oregon State University to study the risks of cross-pollination and disease.  It now moves to the Senate. If this is an issue you care about, contact your (or an) Oregon State Senator, a.s.a.p! Here’s how.  For more information: see Friends of Family Farmers, and The online research magazine for the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station

7 comments

  • Going to public hearings, takes a lot of time, and it’s especially hard, knowing that it’s probably more for show than substance.

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  • Thanks for reporting on this. I’m going to forward it to others. The scope of the problem is so huge it makes me feel very small, though. I hope those of us who “know” the nature of corporate intent are somehow able to move the mountains it’s going to take to put power back into the hands of the ones who care about more than the bottom line of P & L statements.

    If you’d like to guest on my blog one day, I’d love to have you. Tuesdays for the next few weeks are taken, but any other day of the week is open 🙂

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  • YES this issue makes all of us ordinary Joes (Josephines?) feel small. Still, if the Oregon Senate passes this bill, it will be because a lot of ordinary people stood up and said no.

    Thank you Madison. I’d love to guest post. I’m booked up for the next six weeks or so, but let’s look at mid-August.

    By the way, I tried to comment on YOUR blog this morning, and hit technical difficulties, something about the site being under construction?

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