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The European Union subsidizes rape

rapeseedNo, the other kind of rape.  Until the 1970s rapeseed oil was deemed unfit for human consumption because of its levels of erucic acid, but then the Canadians bred a low acid version that could be cold-pressed into an oil high in omega-3 fatty acids instead.  It was called Canola (Canadian Oil Low Acid), and it rehabilitated rapeseed. Rapeseed spread rapidly across Britain, colouring the fields an unfamiliar bright yellow that was the bane of many hay fever sufferers.  But it was not the intrinsic qualities of the crop that made it popular with farmers, but the huge EU subsidy paid to them by the EU.  The EU grant was to support (and exceed) the costs of buying seeds and planting, rather than for the end product.  In practice it amounted to a huge subsidy for large landowners.  Even though British consumers seem to prefer better-tasting alternatives such as olive oil and sunflower oil, rapeseed oil remains a popular crop because it now qualifies for EU subsidies to make bio-diesel, a renewable energy source.  It calls to mind Adam Smith’s observation (from The Wealth Of Nations, Book IV, Chapter V):

“The bounty to the white-herring fishery is a tonnage bounty; and is proportioned to the burden of the ship, not to her diligence or success in the fishery; and it has, I am afraid, been too common for vessels to fit out for the sole purpose of catching, not the fish, but the bounty.”

The subsidy paid to rapeseed planters is proportioned to the planting of the crop, and it has become common for landowners to plant it not for its intrinsic or attractive qualities, but for the purpose of harvesting not the crop but the subsidy.


3 Responses

  1. I recommend grape seed oil (huile de pépins de raisin) which is a light, nutty, sweetish alternative to the ‘good quality’ olive oil tyranny to dress salads and also for cooking. Less expensive too. Good for bread dipping and not part of the purge by the olive oil Gestapo.

    Not that I care, but it teams with polywotsits and omegathingies, for the stressed-at-bay who worry so about their arterial walls.

    (Bad news: it’s genetics and age wot does it.)

    Bon appétit!

  2. Most consumers prefer olive oil over alternatives like grape seed oil,
    simply because, as Madsen mentioned, we think it’s “better tasting.”

    “De gustibus….”

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