Bee-friendly shopper's guide to rapeseed oil

Emi Murphy

21 November 2016

New Friends of the Earth guide shows shoppers concerned about bee decline how to make a difference when they buy rapeseed oil.

Cold pressed rapeseed oil

A pioneering group of farmers has committed not to use 3 bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) on their oilseed rape crops - even if the current ban on their use is lifted next year.

They are conventional farmers – not organic – so they do use pesticides. But they’ve made a big step in promising to use alternative ways to keep pests under control without resorting to these neonics.

The farmers in our Bee-friendly shopper's guide to rapeseed oil all grow, press and bottle their own crops to make high-quality cold-pressed rapeseed oil. The guide includes a range of both smaller producers and high-street brands like Hillfarm Oils and Sainsbury’s "Taste the Difference".

The other farms are Bath Harvest, Duchess Oil, Pure Kent, Yare Valley and Farrington’s Mellow Yellow.

This pioneering initiative, and the great taste of the oils (many of them award-winning), has won the support of some of the UK’s leading chefs.

Bee-friendly shopper's
guide to rapeseed oil
 

Top chefs and rapeseed oil

The popularity of rapeseed oil in recent years, among celebrity chefs and discerning shoppers, is down to its subtle nutty flavour and health benefits. Now some of the UK's leading chefs are backing Friends of the Earth's guide to raise awareness about its link with bee decline too - and urging the public to support the farmers who are committed to producing rapeseed oil without bee-harming pesticides (pdf).

Bee-loving chefs supporting the initiative include:

  • Kevin Gratton, Chef Director for Mark Hix Restaurants
  • David Everitt-Matthias of Le Champignon Sauvage (2 Michelin stars)
  • Martin Burge, Executive Chef at Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa (2 Michelin stars)
  • Tom Hunt, Ecochef and Owner of Poco Tapas Bar

Why not see what all the fuss is about and create one of our farmers' favourite recipes?

Pure Kent’s Banana Muffins are even more delicious with a handful of chocolate chips. Or try Hillfarm’s Smoky Sweet Potato Wedges - the perfect combination of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Bees love oilseed rape

Oilseed rape is a crop that’s particularly attractive to bees due to its rich source of pollen and nectar. 

But until recently bee-harming neonic pesticides were used on up to 80% of oilseed rape crop.

This was bad news for bees. Because neonics affect bees’ ability to forage, navigate and reproduce (pdf).

Earlier this year a comprehensive 18-year study found disturbing evidence that neonic-treated crops could be linked to long-term population decline of wild bee species across the English countryside.

Harvesting rapeseed grown without neonicotinoid pesticides at Hill Farm, Suffolk
Field of oilseed rape with bees. Image: Hillfarm Rapeseed Oils

 

Bee-harming neonicotinoids - the current ban

Three years ago the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the use of 3 neonics posted a "high acute risk" to honeybees. 

And the scientific evidence of the threat to honeybees, bumblebees, and solitary bees continues to grow (pdf).

Because of this, the European Commission banned the use of these 3 neonics on crops attractive to bees, including oilseed rape

The chemical industry has been fighting the ban, arguing it’s essential for the crop. The farmers in our guide are showing that it’s possible to grow oilseed rape without these neonics.  And they're leading the way by committing to do so in future – we believe this deserves our support.

What you can do

It’s simple. Choose a rapeseed oil brand from our guide. Then next time you're dressing a salad, roasting potatoes or frying an egg for a Sunday breakfast, you can do your bit for bees.

Bee-friendly shopper's
guide to rapeseed oil

Bee buzzing around oilseed rape