European Commission

EC position on oilseed rape allergy syndrome

The following statement was made in 2002 by the European Commission in response to public concerns that oilseed rape (rapeseed/canola) is a genuine cause of ill health in persons who live in close proximity to the crops. The Commission advised that there was no consensus within the scientific community regarding the causal factors of oilseed rape allergy syndrome. In light of this statement, it is clear that the Commission provided no satisfactory resolution to public health concerns about oilseed rape.

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European Parliament Question 7 May 2002  (E-1287/2002)                                         Written Question by Graham Watson to the Commission

Subject: The planting of oilseed rape

Is the Commission aware of any research into the effects on human health of oilseed rape cultivation – especially where it is grown in proximity to habitation?

Are there any plans to control the planting of this crop within close proximity of human habitation?


European Parliament Answer 28 June 2002  (E-1287/2002)                               Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

Subject: The planting of oilseed rape

Similar written questions were put in 1991, 1992 and again in 1996 (E-1452/91 by Mr McCubbin (1), E-2414/91 by Mrs Ewing (2), E-2415/91 by Mrs Ewing (3), E-611/92 by Mr Raffin (4), E-2146/96 by Mrs McNally (5)).

The Commission is not aware of a consensus within the scientific community on the matter raised by the Honourable Member’s question.  The Commission knows that there is some concern about the possible links between allergic symptoms in humans and the crop of oilseed rape and can confirm that several studies have been carried out on this subject (6), in particular by the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the University of Dundee (7).  Given the result of the published papers, no conclusive evidence is available to demonstrate a direct cause effect on human health from oilseed rape cultivation.


1) OJ C 311, 2.12.1991.

2) OJ C 159, 25.6.1992.

3) OJ C 209, 15.8.1992.

4) OJ C 32, 2.2.1994

5) OJ C 11, 13.1.1997.

6) Butcher RD, Goodman BA, Deighton N, Smith WH. Evaluation of the allergic/irritant potential of air pollutants: detection of proteins modified by volatile organic compounds from oilseed rape (brassica napus ssp. oleifera) using electrospray ionisation-mass spectrometry. Clinical and Experimental Allergy October 1995; 25 (10): 985-992.

Hemmer W, Focke M, Wantke F, Jager S, Gotz M, Jarisch R. Oilseed rape is a potentially relevant allergen. Clinical and Experimental Allergy February 1997; 27(2), 156-161.

Hemmer W.  The health effects of oilseed rape: myth or reality?  British Medical Journal 1998 May 2; 316(7141): 1327-1328.

Souter A, Harker C, Seaton A, Brooke M, Marr I.  Oilseed rape and seasonal symptoms: epidemiological & environmental studies. Thorax 1994; 49: 352-356.

Souter A, Harker C, Seaton A, Packe G. Oilseed rape and bronchial reactivity.  Occupational and Environmental Medicine 52(9): 575-580. Sensitisation to oilseed rape is not due to cross-reactivity with grass pollen

Welch J, Jones MG, Cullinam P, Coates OA, Newman Taylor AJ. Clinical and Experimental Allergy March 2000; 30: 370-375.

7) McEwan M, Macfarlane Smith W.H. Identification of volatile organic compounds emitted in the field by oilseed rape (brassica napus ssp. oleifera) over the growing season. Clinical and Experimental Allergy March 1998; 28 (3): 332-338.

Author - Armitage: 2007

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