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Fight over canola pits biofuels vs. organics – DailyHerald.com

September 30, 2012

Wet winters and cool, dry summers make Oregon’s Willamette Valley one of the best places on the globe to produce seeds for organic broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and a variety of other vegetables known as brassicas.

That means the fields south of Portland are also an ideal place to grow canola, another brassica whose seeds can be pressed to extract oil for food or renewable fuel.

But you won’t find any canola here. It was banned from the Willamette Valley to protect the delicate vegetable seeds from being contaminated by pollen from canola or destroyed by the pests and diseases it brings.

Demand for renewable energy, however, has helped fuel a push to grow canola in the region, raising a tense conflict between producers of organic foods and renewable energy in a state that cherishes both.

Seed farmers fear canola would cross-pollinate with their plants, destroying the value of the pure seeds they produce. They’re joined in their fight by organic-food lovers, small-farm advocates and opponents of genetically modified crops.

“This is an existential threat,” said Frank Morton, who farms about 12 acres of specialty seeds in Philomath, about 90 miles southwest of Portland. “If canola comes here, it’s the beginning of the end of this industry.”

via Fight over canola pits biofuels vs. organics – DailyHerald.com.

via Fight over canola pits biofuels vs. organics – DailyHerald.com.

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