One of Oregon's premier organic seed breeders, Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, has been a tireless activist on behalf of agricultural integrity in the Willamette Valley. He and other stakeholders successfully sued and won a case again Monsanto over planting genetically modified sugar beets in the valley. He is currently advocating on behalf of Oregon's critical specialty seed industry, which is threatened by the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture's (ODA) recent unilateral decision to allow canola to be grown here.
On the occasion of ODA accomplishing what it has fought hard to do—that is, allow the introduction of rapeseed production to the Willamette Valley without providing a reason to depart from its previously long-held position that growing rapeseed/canola is incompatible with growing specialty seed—I leave us with this paragraph from the 2007 Crop Production Science in Horticulture publication #14, Vegetable Brassicas And Related Crucifers, by GR Dixon from the School of Biological Sciences, Reading, UK.
Canola field in Boardman.
"Recently in Europe and parts of Asia, greater production of agricultural oilseed brassicas (mainly B. napus) [rapeseed] has increased the incidence of some Brassica pests and pathogens on horticultural crops (Lamb, 1989). This situation is exacerbated as the economic threshold for damage caused by pests and pathogens on oilseed rape is higher than for horticultural brassicas, and therefore less control is used. Consequently, large pest or pathogen populations can develop in oilseed rape in the absence of control and then move en masse on to horticultural crops with devastating consequences. Overwintering oilseed rape (B. napus) provides a substantial 'green bridge' for light leaf spot (P. brassicae) and in consequence it is the major foliar disease of that crop. In turn, rape provides a reservoir of infection that transfers on to vegetable brassicas and can cause appreciable losses of quality to leafy types." p. 194.
So indeed, ODA has accomplished a make-work reversal of its own rule regarding rapeseed canola--it has made work for ODA, it has created work for specialty seed companies as they nozzle-up their perimeter defenses, it has made work for fresh market and organic vegetable producers as everyone tries to play self defense against bigger problems than we had before and, yeah, maybe a half dozen farmers will get to start playing with canola, once they go through a new ODA canola permit maze. Worst of all, this is going to create farm neighbor disputes that never existed before.
There is now a Bill before the Legislature that will do, very simply, what we could not do through years and years of argument with the ODA. Keep canola production out of this one precious valley. I ask all of you to please contact your legislators regarding this issue. Please share the concern you have for Oregon's specialty seed and quality vegetable farmers, and the threat to our reputation as a world class place to grow seeds.
Make your concerns known: You can find your legislator here and get his or her contact information. You can also e-mail Rep. Brad Witt (D), the new Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, with your concerns and tell him to make sure the Bill makes it to the floor for a vote.
Suggested points to cover include:
- Why did the ODA reverse it's reasoning as regards coexistence of rapeseed/canola and specialty seeds?
- Is there any new information that would justify this change in perspective?
- Is this decision a source of risk for Willamette Valley seed and vegetable growers?
- Why Not?
- Doesn't there seem to be some risk involved? Who bears that risk?