Editorials

The health effects of oilseed rape: myth or reality?

BMJ 1998; 316 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7141.1327 (Published 02 May 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1327

No clear evidence that it has adverse effects on health

  1. Wolfgang Hemmer, Research fellow
  1. Dermatological and Paediatric Allergy Clinic, A-1210 Vienna, Austria

    Oilseed rape (Brassica napus) has been cultivated without problems for centuries, and public suspicion that oilseed rape might have an adverse effect on health arose only when the acreage of this crop rapidly increased in the 1980s—and only in Britain. Responding to this concern, the British Medical Research Council's Institute of Environment and Health examined the problem at an experts' meeting in 1996 and has recently published an annotated review on the allergenicity and irritancy of oilseed rape.1 Although not drawing final conclusions, this report may help both the practising doctor and the scientist by providing clearcut statements on what we do and don't know. Essentially the report shows that there is evidence of health effects associated with the cultivation of oilseed rape but no convincing evidence that rape is a cause of widespread disease or ill health in the general population.

    Several studies show that pollen from oilseed rape is allergenic,2-6 but data on the incidence of sensitisation are highly conflicting. High figures reported in two early …

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