Bill overturning controversial Department of Agriculture canola rule passes House and Senate with bipartisan support
Today, the Oregon Senate passed a bill to ban commercial production of canola (rapeseed) until 2019 inside the 3 million acre Willamette Valley Protected District, one of the world’s pre-eminent vegetable seed producing regions.
HB 2427, which passed the Senate 18-12 after passing the Oregon House last week 37-22, rolls back a controversial new policy adopted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) in February 2013 that would have allowed 25,000 acres of canola to be planted over the next decade in a region where the production of the plant for its seed has been banned since 2005.
“The Legislature has made a strong statement that we need to protect our valuable specialty seed industry in the Willamette Valley. The Oregon Department of Agriculture rushed too quickly to open up the Willamette Valley Protected District to canola, and the Legislature has established new safeguards to ensure that the specialty seed, organic and other agricultural industries are not harmed,” said Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers.
“We are gratified the Oregon legislature has overruled ODA’s unlawful action that would have allowed dangerous canola planting into the Willamette Valley. This is a victory for Oregon’s farmers and environment,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.
Farmers in Oregon’s specialty seed and organic vegetable industries, valued at well over $50 million in annual sales, have sharply disagreed with allowing canola, an oilseed plant in the brassica family, into the Willamette Valley. Canola readily cross-pollinates with brassica specialty seed crops like broccoli, kale, and cabbage; spreads plant diseases and pests to brassica vegetable and seed crops; and can contaminate pure lots of vegetable and clover seed, rendering them unsalable in international and local markets. Genetically engineered herbicide resistant varieties of canola can further cross-pollinate with weeds, creating new invasive species problems as herbicide resistant traits spread to native weed populations.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture first banned canola in the Willamette Valley to protect the specialty seed industry in 2005, but in 2013 opened half the valley to canola plantings despite overwhelming public opposition. In addition to a ban on commercial canola production until 2019, HB 2427 authorizes and funds three years of research at Oregon State University into the risks associated with canola.
On April 25, 2013 Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit to halt ODA’s new rule to allow canola in the Willamette Valley on behalf of Friends of Family Farmers, Center for Food Safety, Universal Seed, and Wild Garden Seed, with legal representation from Center for Food Safety and Field Jerger LLP.
In August 2012, Center for Food Safety and Friends of Family Farmers, on behalf of individual growers, challenged ODA’s original temporary rule, which would have allowed canola planting in the fall of 2012. Because of this successful challenge, no planting of canola has been allowed in the Willamette Valley.
The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk.
About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.