The Oregon Department of Agriculture is fast-tracking the approval of GM canola

Posted on August 8th, 2012 by Gavin | Posted in Notes & News

As many of you may know the Willamette Valley is one of the top 5 places in the world for growing and supplying specialty seed and maintaining seed diversity. Seed grown here not only is sold by local Oregon companies, such as Adaptive Seeds, but is also bought by other seed companies such as Johnny’s, Fedco, and lots of others both nationally and internationally. Basically, seed grown here supplies the world with food. 

One of the specialty seeds that the Valley is perfect for is brassicas, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, rutabaga, turnip, radish, kale, cabbage, etc. Canola is also a brassica but spreads rampantly and cross pollinates with a lot of other brassicas with detrimental effects. Oregon State University has conducted research proving that canola will cross pollinate with many different crops including turnips, broccoli raab, some kales, rutabaga, and possibly radish and broccoli. Meaning the presence of canola production in the Willamette Valley will definitely contaminate and destroy those other seed crops. Without doubt.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has previously maintained a canola exclusion zone in the Valley. However, in the past few months there have been a series of meetings held behind closed doors to change this zone to allow canola (including genetically modified canola) to be grown in the valley unchecked and with disregard to existing seed pinning map isolation guidelines. ODA only just released a press release on Friday, August 3rd saying they will grant a temporary rule to allow canola this Friday, August 10th. By issuing a temporary rule the ODA is avoiding the requirement for public comment and therefore behaving unilaterally with only special interests in mind. Not only does this decision harm seed growers but GM canola cross pollination will also potentially threaten the livelihood of any of the certified organic growers in the area. There are good reasons why canola has been banned in the Willamette Valley by ODA up to this point, and pressure on ODA to lift these bans needs to be countered.

Please contact the ODA and Governor Kitzhaber yourself and make your voice heard! It does not matter if you are not an Oregon resident, this decision effects everyone in a huge way and they need to be reminded of that.

And spread the word!

ODA phone number:  (503) 986-4552 
ODA Director Coba:

Governor Kitzhaber:  (503) 378-4582 ; or email



Comment left on: August 8th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I am worried that we will lose many local farms because of this, and that it will greatly change the quality of life here. Who is meeting with the ODA and asking for this to happen?


Comment left on: August 8th, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Hi Angela,
We’re worried, too.

The proposal has been in the works for a while. Some local growers are advocating for it for a couple reasons:

  • There is a growing market for bio-fuels
  • Canola is a popular food oil
  • It’s anticipated that the construction of a food-oil processing plant in Washington will start soon
  • And canola is a relatively low-maintenance crop that is good for rotation and controlling weed cycles

We recommend contacting the ODA and Governor Kitzhaber directly to voice your concerns:
ODA phone number: (503) 986-4552
ODA Director Coba:

Governor Kitzhaber: (503) 378-4582 ; or email

For more information check out the following links:
Friends of Family Farmers: Willamette Valley Immediately Threatened by Canola
2006 OSU Special Report on Canola Outcrossing Potential in the Willamette Valley
GMOs At The Door, Wild Garden Seeds, Frank Morton
Willamette Valley Farmers Continue the Canola Debate,

Thanks for the comment!


Comment left on: August 9th, 2012 at 7:29 am

People might be interested to know that in Oregon while a temporary rule bypasses the public comment requirement, initially, it can only exist for 6 months. Then, in order to keep it, the state agency MUST go through the the more formal process of adopting the rule permanently, including public comment. Otherwise, the administrative rule reverts to the previous permanent one. I drafted & re-wrote admin rules for the state agency I’ve now retired from & this is the requirements per the Secretary of State’s requirements for Oregon Administrative Rules. I realize, in this instance, 6 months is likely enough time to potentially cause cross pollination. However, at this time of year, it may not be as crucial as if it was done earlier in the spring.


Comment left on: August 14th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Hulloo Wendy,

the danger of cross-pollination during the waiting period is what worries us – and the threat of a formal rule designed to benefit a few seed growers at the expense of the larger agriculture community is a concern as well.

Thanks for the added info and your inside perspective! It’s good to know the details and it’s always nice to hear from folks that have been involved with these kinds of proceedings before.

Cheers! 🙂

Jodi Heatherington

Comment left on: August 14th, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Hello. I would like to share this info on Facebook, etc. but facts only. Have you any versions of this piece without the ” call to action” embellishments?
Hope that doesn’t sound rude, I sincerely appreciate your efforts to spread the news quickly. Is there a version for a neutral audience?
“(blank) needs to ( blank) ” is neither true, nor interesting.
Movie quote alert: we CAN handle the truth.
Sincerely, jodi


Comment left on: August 14th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Hi Jodi,

the basic information can be found on the ODA website here.

Thanks for taking the time to look into it. 🙂

Leave a comment: