Democracy at work: Score One for the Seed Farmers

Canola ban clears Legislature


I’m flag waving today because round 1 in the Willamette Valley canola battle went to the specialty seed farmers, a group that consists largely of smaller-scale operations.  Grass roots politics work!

Canola is an all right crop — just don’t bring it here. Businesses from all over the world order Willamette valley seeds, many varieties of which are organic. Canola was banned in a 3.6 million acre portion of the valley because it cross-breeds with other plants in the same genus (mustard, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale and more),  and is susceptible to, and spreads, disease and pests.  Also, 95% of it is genetically modified, although this wasn’t part of the official fight against it.  The other problems were enough.

I wrote earlier (Rapeseed, Gas vs. Grass) about an underhanded attempt by the Oregon Farm Bureau (good friends of Dow Chemical, Syngenta and Monsanto) and the Department of Agriculture to pass an under-the-wire “temporary exception” to the ban on canola.  Temporary, of course, would haven meant an opportunity for canola to spread and become permanent.

Thanks to farmers who showed up for hearings, organizations like the Friends of Family Farmers who spread the word, and volunteers who wrote to legislators and attended rallies, the Oregon State Legislature just banned canola in the valley until 2019, and allocated money to study the effects of canola on other crops.

A sweet victory for Oregon seed farmers, and for those of us who fear we can’t make a difference. We can.


  • Those tiny seeds that grow to produce canola oil travel amazingly well with the slightest breeze! They would contaminate our organic commercial brassica seed stock & could wreck that market! Seems our valley is at a critical evolution from nearly monoculture grass seed crop, silly time for a critical error. I’m celebrating, too! 🙂


  • With our implicit consent though. So few of us poke our noses into where food comes from and how it’s grown, so Big Ag does as it pleases. Still, it’s nice to have a little victory!


    • Heavy pressure on the Governor to veto the bill, but yahoo! He just signed it anyway. Safe until 2019. Although the way time is flying now …


  • It is something to celebrate, although I can’t take credit. The heavy lifting was done by an army of ordinary people, legislators who listened and by a crew of amazing researchers at Oregon State University.


  • Congrats on chopping off that tentacle. Big AG just tried to cut off the supply of heirloom seed here in Europe. We’ve stopped them for now, but like Arnie, they’ll be back.


    • Kate, I’ll have to look you up to see where in Europe you are! It’s amazing how hard it is to talk sense into ourselves, as a species. Fine, monkey around with the genome, but leave our heirlooms alone!


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