1 February 2000
Rape crop unfairly slated
By FWi staff
OILSEED rapes reputation as asthma-inducing yellow peril has been questioned by an East Anglian scientist, himself a hay-fever sufferer.
Writing in a recent issue of Immunology Today Prof Denis Murphy of the John Innes Centre claims 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.”
But in Austria, in a study of over 4500 patients with suspected respiratory allergies, only four blamed oilseed rape for their condition.
And although France and Germany each grow twice as much rape as the UK, no similar concerns about its effects have been expressed, he notes.
Prof Denis discounts the theory that different varieties or flowering times could account for views on the other side of the Channel.
And he is concerned that the unjustified link between the crop and allergies could detract from its real benefits.
“It is being hyped up.
“Although it is important to continue to investigate potential health hazards, we should not necessarily stigmatise an important and versatile crop.
“It can provide not only a nutritious edible oil, but also a huge spectrum of environmentally friendly, renewable industrial products.”