19 May 2008

The yellow peril - Eco zealots insist oilseed rape can save the planet, but the truth is very different

To some people, they are a visual delight - splashes of gold that brighten the muted palate of greens and browns, adding a dash of almost tropical exuberance to Britain's landscape.

To others, however, they are a visual abomination, their vivid tones an ugly aberration amid our otherwise green and pleasant land.

Love it or hate it, oilseed rape, whose flowers are now in full bloom and which has probably done more to change the appearance of our countryside in recent decades, is here to stay.

Goodbye to green: Oilseed rape fields in North Dorset

The reasons: it makes farmers a lot of money; it can feed animals and people and is even being touted as the answer to global warming.

All of which cuts little ice with those who believe the crop is not only an eyesore, but also sends vast quantities of pollen and noxious chemicals into the air, causing utter misery for Britain's ten million hay fever sufferers.

This is a war that will not be over for a long time. As recently as the 1970s, oilseed rape was as rare a crop in Britain as bananas.

Now it is our third-largest arable crop by area, accounting for 11 per cent of everything grown by farmers in the UK. The number of fields being sown is still increasing as more markets are being found.

the Daily Mail