August 9, 2010

Yellow Fields Yield Flak

Controversy appears to be the order of the day. Even fields flowing with bright yellow flowers are not exempt from incessant human bickering. I refer to rapeseed, a pretty flower so maligned.

Terraced fields in northwest China's Gansu province, 2007

Rapeseed is a relative of the mustard and cabbage family. You can cook and eat the leaves of some varieties of the plant like any other green vegetable. In China and Europe, rapeseed oil was traditionally used to light lanterns. Rapeseed "oil cake" is used as a fertilizer in China.

Today, different varieties of rapeseed are grown around the globe, mostly to process into biodiesel, animal feed or edible oil. Rapeseed also produces nectar for honey, and the oil from the seeds is a raw material for paints, glues, toothpaste, and cosmetics like lipstick. Many of these uses are hotly debated by some.

In the 1970s a Canadian used traditional plant breeding techniques to make the oil of rapeseed fit for our consumption.  To rise above its nasty reputation, the new variety was dubbed canola, a contraction of ""CANadian Oil, Low [erucic] Acid".  

So, where is the controversy? Well, this is Mellow Yellow Monday and it just wouldn't do to go on a major rant, now would it? The issue is in any event much more complex than my photo blog can cover. But here's an over-simplified example about canola oil: on one side you have the many who certify that canola oil is one of the most heart-healthy cooking oils, rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and the good fats, while the other side decries that over half of rapeseed grown today is genetically modified to be resistant to the effects of a dangerous herbicide which then upsets the fields' ecosystem and that the health benefits of canola oil have been exaggerated.

Do you think these farmers have any inkling of what we in the West argue over?

All I will say here now is that it behooves me to make more effort to be a smart consumer. I'm doing my homework.

I leave you with a final image that took me by surprise. Can you identify this plant growing next to the flowering rapeseed?

This blog is posted for meme Mellow Yellow Monday. Click on the link for a lot many more links to yellows.


Christian said...

Wow...I would love to taste this one. Hopefully, it would taste just like cabbage. Thanks for sharing!

Just followed you...Add me please!

See my entry on my blog @

Julie said...

To begin at the end, I suspect that green plant to be a 'weed'.

Rapeseed oil is in the same basket as poppy growning in the Golden Triangle I suspect. The growers have a market for their produce which is all they worry about. What the 'west' might need to do, it to ensure the market is kept to a minimum and also to encourage the growers (with subsidies) to grow a crop which is more beneficial to mankind.

No an easy issue ...

Manang Kim said...

A very interesting post Francisca. First off I thought the yellow plants are flowers but as I read your post it is very interesting to note it goes to Canola oil. I thought canola oil comes from canola plant which I don't know if there is really a canola plant.
Second, my native country is the Philippines and I see a lot of that kind of transportation there. That picture did make me smile this morning, it also makes me think how here in my new country are so spoiled hehehehe!
Third, did I see marijuana plants beside the rapeseed plantation? Or it's a cassava plant? Or I am still sleeping while typing my comment here ^_^ Happy Monday!

Mellow Yellow Monday

Jacob said...

And to think I'd never even heard of rapeseed prior to reading this post. Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. Now you'll have me worrying about the uses of rapeseed and whether it should be used in all the ways it is being used and whether it should be made into Canola and whether the way it's farmed is hard on the ecosystem.

Sheesh! I wasn't worried about any of that stuff when I got up this morning!

Thanks a lot!

And no, I don't have a clue what that fern is doing next to the flowering rapeseed!

And that sure is a funny-looking truck! I'll bet those animals are going to market to become Japanese steak or something!

Heh, heh! ;-)))

Jacob said...

Me agin! I thank you for your comment on Ocala DP...but when I clicked the link I found that the article was available only to members and I don't want to join anything else so...but I appreciate the thought.

Hope you have a great week!

Jacob said...

Me once more re your comment on Florida Fotos. We've left our Golden there a couple of times...and they do a nice job. The kennels are separate with each having a little back yard. They also take the dogs on walks and allow them to swim in the pool. Of course, Haley doesn't want to be anywhere where we are she doesn't think a whole lot of the place!

The sign is a bit "tongue-in-cheek."

Joanne said...

Wow, you have really travellled China! It is still on my list and somehow is always gets taken over by another country, I will get to the wall one day:))
Thanks for the visits, you must come back to Portugal one day it has changed alot since you were last here:)

EG Wow said...

There does seem to be an awful lot to worry about when it comes to our food. It's difficult to know who to believe. I hope that all the people concerned about canola oil are as worried about the growth hormones in our meat. Not to mention all the chemicals that are in our water.

OK, I'm now stepping off my soapbox and backing away slowly. :)

☺lani☺ said...

Wow, really nice shots of all those rapeseed. Lovely!

tapirgal said...

Once again, a fascinating and educational post - with lovely photos. Is the weed imported? I don't know whether it grows there naturally.

Francisca said...

@tapirgal - can't say I know anything about marijuana growing in China, but I would be extremely surprised - with their rich culture of herbal medicine - if they haven't known about this plant for many many centuries!

VP said...

I have heard of canola but didn't have an idea about what was it for.
I don't think those farmers care much of what we debate and I am amazed at their means of transportation (load included!).

Jacob said...

Mary Jane? Really? Oh, dear. I've heard of it before I think. Just never knew what it looked like. Heh, heh!

I was in the midst of the turmoil of the 60s...but, strange as it may seem, I never did use the weed.

Those were interesting times.

Elisa said...

I really love that yellow fields!

JM said...

Your photos of China are amazing! The second pic is unbelievably bautiful and it somehow reminds me of the blooming mustard fields all over Rajasthan in January.

Regarding Monsanto: the park got its name after the mountain where it's located, but there also are several localities in the country named Monsanto.
I am aware of the american company and as far as I can remember there was some controversy around it because of ecological issues. No idea where the name came from, maybe the owners have some portuguese ancestry.

Wine and Words said...

Such beautiful images for something called rapeseed! Looks like fields of mustard from afar. Gorgeous.

michael bird said...

Hmmm. Guess that plant in the last photo would be a companion plant, right? In more ways than one?