18 February 2000

Boost to rape crops image

OILSEED rapes reputation as an asthma-inducing yellow peril has been dealt a blow by an East Anglian scientist, himself a hay-fever sufferer.

Writing in a recent issue of Immunology Today Denis Murphy of the John Innes Centre says the negative perception of the crop seems to be confined to the UK.

Some individuals are known to be allergic to rape pollen, but there is little evidence that they are sensitive only to that crop, he says. "People get asthma for many reasons.

"Rapeseed has been branded in the UK press as "the yellow peril" and has been blamed for disturbing the aesthetic balance of the countryside with its bright yellow flowers."

Prof Denis is concerned that the unjustified link between the crop and allergies could detract from its real benefits.

"Although it is important to continue to investigate potential health hazards, we should not necessarily stigmatise an important and versatile crop that can provide not only a nutritious edible oil, but also a huge spectrum of environmentally friendly, renewable industrial products." &#42