Despite objection from local growers of specialty seeds, the Oregon Department of Agriculture earlier this year decided to permit the planting of canola in the Willamette Valley. Now, the Oregon legislature has introduced House Bill 2427, a bill that would ban canola from the valley for three years. During that time, researchers at Oregon State University would conduct a study to determine whether canola presents a real threat to the valley’s world-renowned specialty seed industry, estimated at $50 million annually.
The main concern is that canola could cross-pollinate with other Brassica crops, such as mustard greens, broccoli, and kale. If that should happen, the genetic integrity of the seeds would be compromised. Another fear is that new pests and plant diseases will come into the valley in the wake of canola.
In mid-April the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee recommended that the bill be passed, with only one vote against. If the bill becomes law, Oregon State University must report its findings by Nov. 1, 2016.
The earlier ruling from the Oregon Department of Agriculture would have permitted the planting of up to 2,500 acres of canola, mostly for the production of biofuel. It did not restrict the growing of genetically modified canola, which represents the vast majority of canola grown in the country.
By Jen Matteis