Asthma UK community forum

yellow enemies in the fields


is anyone else sick of seeing fields of yellow. The rape seed oil plant is not only sending myself and my children's hayfever and hence asthma sky high but i am finding it increasingly difficlut to stay awake when driving past the new enemy. My son was at the youth asthma forum yesterday and he brought this topic up and it appears kent is not the only county covered in the stuff. Anyone else suffering and any one got any suggestions. i also get funny looks when i drive past the stuff with bits of menthol covered tissue hanging out of both my nostrils. but its the only slight solution i have found. anyone got any better ideas. I did even consider arson but then decided my asthma would be just as bad with the smoke.

7 Replies

Its marching across Essex too! I can smell it in my garden and also at work there is a field near by (Comes from working on a Wildlife Trust Farm!)

I think it is more the acrid brassica chemicals that cause the stink.

Perhaps we should boycot all products containing rapeseed / Canola / vegetable oil - now that is a lot of products me thinks !!



Yellow Peril!

Hi Debi, I found your post quite amusing - LOL

My advice when driving near fields of oilseed rape is – If your car is fitted with aircon, make sure your aircon is temporarily switched to recirc and all windows are closed. If your car does not have aircon, close all windows and temporarily switch off the ventilation system including all air vents until you are at least half a mile from the fields of oil seed rape.

I have copied the following post that I left on the old AUK boards back in July last year which should go some way to explain the current situation. But I hope it doesn’t fuel your thoughts to create fields of fire - LOL.

Oilseed rape (yellow peril) can and does cause allergy. Numerous cases of oilseed rape allergy have been recorded in learned journals since about 1954. However, studies in the UK during recent years have concluded that oilseed rape (OSR) does not cause an increased risk of allergy to the general population although atopics living in the rural setting may experience an increase in allergy symptoms when the crop is in bloom.

These finding are very much invariance to ever increasing anecdotal evidence which strongly suggests that a link between OSR and allergy does exist. Most of the recent studies are in agreement that further research into the terpenes (volatile organic compounds) given off by the crop needs to been conducted.

OSR pollen is heavy and does not travel large distances unlike other pollens. Due to this fact, it is unlikely that OSR pollen is a significant contributing factor in the increase in allergy symptoms in the general population.

OSR is insect pollinated hence the reason for the bright yellow flowers and pungent aroma that seems to carry on the wind for miles during the flowering phase. It is noteworthy that scientists have recorded and measured over a hundred different terpenes being emitted from OSR when the crop is in full boom.

In the mid-1990’s (can’t remember the exact date) the European Commission was asked to make a formal reply to questions raised by an MEP on the possible restrictions to the planting of OSR in close proximity to houses. From memory, the formal statement issued by the EC stated that there was no evidence to suggest that OSR caused an increase in allergy to the general population and there was no restrictions to control where it could be grown (I have a dusty copy some where in my attic).

One of the major sticking points isn’t, believe or not, the agricultural lobby (although this does indeed have impact), it’s the lack of true understanding and acceptance of the term allergy. The statement issued by the EC is under-pinned by reductionist science which requires confirmation of an established link between cause and effect. This is very much the voice of the old school boy network of medical practitioners who refuse to take a more holistic view of allergy despite the fact many clinical immunologists now accept and advocate that the term allergy should not be restricted to a Type 1 IgE immediate response to a specific biological allergen.

My argument is that the naturally emitted volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by the crop in the form of terpenes can cause acquired immune system dysfunction, particularly in persons who may be immuno-compromised (e.g. the young, the sick and elderly). The effects of multiple chemical sensitivity is widely published in learned journals and well documented in the field of occupational medicine. This is supported by allergists who regularly advise patients to reduce their total immune system stress load by avoiding contact with chemicals (especially airborne VOCs).

A number of years ago I argued (using the precautionary principle advocated by the EC), not for a ban on the planting of OSR, but for restrictions to control the planting of the crop relative to residential housing. At least until the crop is proved beyond reasonable doubt to be non-hazardous to the health of persons who live in close proximity to the crop. The young, the sick and the elderly have rights and are entitled to a quality of life which I believe should not be compromised by fields of OSR.

To date, my efforts have been fruitless although I have been told that many health professionals share my views but are unwilling to lift their heads above the proverbial parapet. After all, what would I know, being a mere electrical engineer.



I can't offer much advice on the asthma / allergy side of things but just thought I would tell you why there are so many fields full of this nasty stuff.

Under the terms of the common agricultural policy, farmers get subsidies for leaving land bare (set aside) and not growing anything on it. This was an EU initiative to solve food surpluses. Under the terms of the policy oil seed rape (nasty yellow stuff to us!) is not seen as a crop. So farmers can grow the nasty stuff and still get their subsidies for set aside land. So once again it is evil powers above affecting us. Can you tell I have been helping my sister revise GCSE Geography? he he

Take Care


Steph xx


Disco Dolly,

Yeh, you are right that oilseed rape is grown under the C.A.P. (Common Agricultural Policy) set-aside scheme. About 10% of all oilseed rape is cultivated under the set-aside scheme.

Straying a wee bit off topic to continue geography lesson…

You see, (says he wearing Wurzel Gummidge wig) oilseed rape can be grown on land described as set-aside so long as the oilseed rape is for industrial use or animal fodder. If I remember correctly, oilseed rape which is high in euric acid and glucosinolate cannot be used for food consumption but it can be used for both industrial and animal use.

This is a contentious subject because farmers get a double whammy (they get paid under the CAP set-aside scheme and they also get paid for supplying oil for industrial use/animal fodder). Some consider that farmers are exploiting a loop hole in the CAP set-aside policy which allows farmers to get paid twice for a single crop. This goes against the grain (please pardon the terrible pun) of the set-aside policy which is meant to reduce European food mountains and allow wild animals to re-establish habitats on (set-aside) land that is left uncultivated for a year.

Take hair,



hello Deek & DD,

Thanks for clarifying the status etc,, I couldn't remember the chemical names emitted. It is an insect pollinated plant hence lower pollen production. It really stinks when they harvest it.

DD - interesting info about CAP - just blame DEFRA!! I am currently doing maps for our reserves, some of which are farms managed for wildlife, did the SFP - Single farm Payment stuff last year, now on to Entry and Higher level schemes with organic bits too!

Take care



the yellow perils

thanks for all the science guys. perhaps the government should consider the extra medical cost before giving extra money to the farmers.


Hello Debi,

Alot of the money is going to farmers to help them produce crops more sustainably, manage the land for wildlife and also encourage organic farming. (less chemical pesticides, fertilisers in our food)

UK farmers need the money to keep going so cheap imported food doesn't ruin their livelyhoods. Imported food also increases the pollution, creates higher carbon emmissions from the long distance transport.

I do think they should be encouraged to plant less rape though! Linseed looks nice in the fields - that is a nice calming blue!



You may also like...