From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the inventor of the harp in Celtic mythology, see Canola (mythology).

Canola refers to both an edible oil (also known as canola oil) produced from the seed of any of several varieties of the Brassicaceae family of plants, and to those plants, namely a cultivar of Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa subsp. oleifera, syn. B. campestris L. or Brassica juncea. To be called canola, it must contain less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 micromoles glucosinolates.[1]

Consumption of the oil is common and is claimed not only to be completely safe for human and animal consumption,[2][3] but also to be among the healthiest of plant-derived oils, having relatively low amount of saturated fat with high content of polyunsaturated fats.[4] It is also used as a source of biodiesel.


The name "canola" was chosen by the board of the Rapeseed Association of Canada in the 1970s. The "Can" part stands for Canada and "ola" refers to oil.[5][6] However, a number of sources, including The Free Dictionary, continue to claim it stands for "Can(ada)+o(il)+l(ow)+a(cid).[7] The name was coined partially to euphemize the name of rapeseed oil, to avoid the negative connotations of rape as a violent sex crime, from the Latin "rapere".[8]


Close-up of rapeseed blooms
Canola flower
Canola field in New South Wales, Australia

Canola was developed through conventional plant breeding from rapeseed, an oilseed plant already used in ancient civilization as a fuel. The word "rape" in rapeseed comes from the Latin word rapum meaning turnip. Turnip, rutabaga, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mustard, and many other vegetables are related to the two natural canola varieties commonly grown, which are cultivars of B. napus and B. rapa. The change in name serves to distinguish it from natural rapeseed oil, which has much higher erucic acid content.

Brassica oilseed varieties are some of the oldest plants cultivated by humanity, with documentation of its use in India 4,000 years ago, and use in China and Japan 2,000 years ago.[9]:55 Its use in Northern Europe for oil lamps is documented to the 13th century.[9] Its use was limited until the development of steam power, when machinists found rapeseed oil clung to water- and steam-washed metal surfaces better than other lubricants. World War II caused high demand for the oil as a lubricant for the rapidly increasing number of steam engines in naval and merchant ships. When the war blocked European and Asian sources of rapeseed oil, a critical shortage developed, and Canada began to expand its limited rapeseed production.

After the war, demand declined sharply, and farmers began to look for other uses for the plant and its products. Rapeseed oil extracts were first put on the market in 1956–1957 as food products, but these suffered from several unacceptable characteristics. Rapeseed oil had a distinctive taste and a disagreeable greenish color, due to the presence of chlorophyll. It also contained a high concentration of erucic acid. Experiments on animals have pointed to the possibility that erucic acid, consumed in large quantities, may cause heart damage, although Indian researchers have published findings that call into question these conclusions and the implication that the consumption of mustard or rapeseed oil is dangerous.[10][11][12][13][14] Feed meal from the rapeseed plant also was not particularly appealing to livestock, because of high levels of sharp-tasting compounds called glucosinolates.

Canola was bred from rapeseed at the University of Manitoba, Canada, by Keith Downey and Baldur R. Stefansson in the early 1970s,[15][16] having then a different nutritional profile than present-day oil in addition to much less erucic acid.[17]

A variety developed in 1998 is considered to be the most disease- and drought-resistant canola variety to date. This and other recent varieties have been produced using genetic engineering. In 2011, 26% of the acres sown were genetically modified (biotech) canola.[18]

Canola was originally a trademark, but is now a generic term for edible varieties of rapeseed oil in North America and Australia. In Canada, an official definition of canola is codified in Canadian law.[19]

Production and trade[edit]

Canola being grown in South Africa just outside the City of Cape Town. Table Mountain is clearly visible in the far right. Canola is a relatively new crop in the country and was first cultivated in the early 1990s.[20]

As of the 2013/2014 season, production in the ten leading territories was:[21]

Country Production (1000 MT)
European Union 21,102
Canada 17,960
China 14,458
India 7,300
Australia 3,760
Ukraine 2,352
Russia 1,393
United States 1,004
Belarus 676
Pakistan 320
Kazakhstan 242

The main price discovery mechanism for worldwide canola trade is the ICE Futures Canada (formerly Winnipeg Commodity Exchange) canola futures contract. Rapeseed is traded on the Euronext exchange.

Canola oil[edit]

Bottle of canola cooking oil

Canola oil is made at a processing facility by slightly heating and then crushing the seed. Almost all commercial canola oil is then extracted using hexane, which is recovered at the end of processing. Finally, the canola oil is refined using water precipitation and organic acid to remove gums and free fatty acids, filtering to remove color, and deodorizing using steam distillation.[22] Cold-pressed and expeller-pressed canola oil are also produced on a more limited basis. About 43% of a seed is oil;[23] the remainder is a canola meal that is used as animal feed. About 23 kg (51 lb) of canola seed makes 10 L (2.64 US gal) of canola oil. Canola oil is a key ingredient in many foods. Its reputation as a healthy oil has created high demand in markets around the world, and overall it is the third-most widely consumed vegetable oil.[citation needed]

The oil has many nonfood uses and, like soybean oil, is often used interchangeably with non-renewable petroleum-based oils in products, including industrial lubricants, biofuels, candles, lipsticks, and newspaper inks depending on the price on the spot market. Canola oil is also recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine for use as a vaginal lubrication.[24]

The average density of canola oil is 0.92 g/ml.[25]

Health information[edit]

A review in 2013 of health effects of canola oil came to overall favorable results, including a substantial reduction in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and an increase in tocopherol levels and improved insulin sensitivity, compared with other sources of dietary fat.[4]

Compound Family  % of total
Oleic acid
Linoleic acid
Alpha-linolenic acid
11%[26] 9%[27][28]
Saturated fatty acids
Palmitic acid
Stearic acid
Trans fat

Regarding individual components, canola oil is low in saturated fat and contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1. It is high in monounsaturated fats, which may decrease the risk of heart disease.[30] Canola oil has been given a qualified health claim from the United States Food and Drug Administration due to its high levels of cholesterol-lowering fats.[31]

Canolol, a phenolic compound showing antioxidant properties, is found in crude canola oil.[32]

Erucic acid issues[edit]

Main article: Erucic acid

Although wild rapeseed oil contains significant amounts of erucic acid,[33] the cultivar used to produce commercial, food-grade canola oil was bred to contain less than 2% erucic acid, levels that are not believed to cause harm in humans,[34][35] and no health effects have been associated with dietary consumption by humans of erucic acid[36][37]:646–657 nor canola oil produced from genetically modified plants.[38]

Canola oil poses no unusual health risks,[39]:646–657 and its consumption in food-grade forms is generally recognized as safe by the United States Food and Drug Administration.[3][34]


Main article: Biodiesel

Europe has invested heavily in infrastructure to use canola oil for biodiesel, spurred by EU biodiesel policy initiatives.[40]

Comparison to other vegetable oils[edit]

Vegetable oils
Type Processing
fatty acids[41]
fatty acids[41]
Polyunsaturated fatty acids Oleic acid
Smoke point
Total poly[41] linolenic acid
Linoleic acid
Canola (rapeseed)   7.365 63.276 28.142 10 10   400 °F (204 °C)[42]
Coconut   91.000 6.000 3.000   2 6 350 °F (177 °C)[42]
Corn[43]   12.948 27.576 54.677 1 58 28 450 °F (232 °C)
Cottonseed   25.900 17.800 51.900 1 54 19 420 °F (216 °C)[43]
Flaxseed/Linseed (European)[44]   7.500 15.500 79.000 64 15 11 225 °F (107 °C)
Olive   14.000 72.000 14.000 1.5 15   380 °F (193 °C)[42]
Palm   49.300 37.000 9.300   10 40 455 °F (235 °C)
Peanut   16.900 46.200 32.000   32 48 437 °F (225 °C)[43]
Safflower (>70% linoleic)   8.000 15.000 75.000       410 °F (210 °C)[42]
Safflower (high oleic)   7.541 75.221 12.820       410 °F (210 °C)[42]
Soybean   15.650 22.783 57.740 7 50 24 460 °F (238 °C)[43]
Sunflower (<60% linoleic)   10.100 45.400 40.100 0.2 39.8 45.3 440 °F (227 °C)[43]
Sunflower (>70% oleic)   9.859 83.689 3.798       440 °F (227 °C)[43]
Cottonseed (hydrogenated)[41] Hydrogenated 93.600 1.529 0.587   0.287  
Palm (hydrogenated) Hydrogenated 47.500 40.600 7.500      
Soybean (hydrogenated)[41] Hydrogenated 21.100 73.700 0.400 0.096    
Values as percent (%) by weight of total fat.

Genetic modification issues[edit]

Blooming Canola field in Saskatchewan, Canada.

A genetically engineered rapeseed that is tolerant to herbicide was first introduced to Canada in 1995 (Roundup Ready canola). In 2009, 90% of the Canadian crop was herbicide-tolerant.[46] As of 2005, 87% of the canola grown in the US was genetically modified.[47] A 2010 study conducted in North Dakota found glyphosate- or glufosinate-resistance transgenes in 80% of wild natural rapeseed plants, and a few plants that were resistant to both herbicides. The escape of the genetically modified plants has raised concerns that the build-up of herbicide resistance in feral canola could make it more difficult to manage these plants using herbicides. However one of the researchers agrees that ".. feral populations could have become established after trucks carrying cultivated GM seeds spilled some of their load during transportation." She also notes that the GM canola results they found may have been biased as they only sampled along roadsides.[48]

Legal issues[edit]

Legal issues include whether some countries allow genetically modified canola to be grown, and litigation between farmers and patent holders.


There are several forms of genetic modification, such as herbicide (glyphosate and glufosinate, for example) tolerance and different qualities in canola oil. Regulation varies from country to country; for example, glyphosate-resistant canola has been approved in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, and the US, while Laurical, a product with a different oil composition, has been approved for growing only in Canada and the US.[49]

In 2003, Australia's gene technology regulator approved the release of canola genetically modified to make it resistant to glufosinate ammonium, a herbicide.[50] The introduction of the genetically modified crop to Australia generated considerable controversy.[51] Canola is Australia's third biggest crop, and is used often by wheat farmers as a break crop to improve soil quality. As of 2008, the only genetically modified crops in Australia were canola, cotton, and carnations.[52][53]


Genetically modified canola has become a point of controversy and contentious legal battles. In one high-profile case (Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser) the Monsanto Company sued Percy Schmeiser for patent infringement after he replanted canola seed he had harvested from his field, which he discovered was contaminated with Monsanto's patented glyphosate-tolerant canola by spraying it with glyphosate, leaving only the resistant plants. The Supreme Court ruled that Percy was in violation of Monsanto's patent because he knowingly replanted the resistant seed that he had harvested and also imposing fees of over $200,000 on Schmeiser, but he was not required to pay Monsanto damages since he did not benefit financially from its presence.[54] On 19 March 2008, Schmeiser and Monsanto Canada Inc. came to an out-of-court settlement whereby Monsanto would pay for the clean-up costs of the contamination, which came to a total of C$660.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed (Lear) Oil Derived From Canola-quality Brassica juncea (L.) CZERN. Lines PC 97-03, PC98-44 AND PC98-45". Health Canada. 2003-03-27. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  2. ^ Dupont, J; White, PJ; Johnston, HA; McDonald, BE; Grundy, SM; Bonanome, A (October 1989). "Food safety and health effects of canola oil". Journal of the American College of Nutrition 8 (5): 360–375. doi:10.1080/07315724.1989.10720311. PMID 2691543. 
  3. ^ a b Zeratsky, Katherine (2009). "Canola Oil: Does it Contain Toxins?". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Lin L, Allemekinders H, Dansby A, Campbell L, Durance-Tod S, Berger A, Jones PJ (2013). "Evidence of health benefits of canola oil". Nutr. Rev. 71 (6): 370–85. doi:10.1111/nure.12033. PMC 3746113. PMID 23731447. 
  5. ^ Canola Council of Canada. "What is Canola?". Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  6. ^ AgCanada. "Canola was a "calculated" risk". Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  7. ^ "canola". The Free Dictionary. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  8. ^ "The History of Canola". Canola Council of Canada. Canola Council of Canada. 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Snowdon R et al. "Oilseed Rape". Chapter 2 in Genome Mapping and Molecular Breeding in Plants: OIlseeds. Ed, Chittaranjan Kole. Springer, 2007
  10. ^ Ghafoorunissa (1996). "Fats in Indian Diets and Their Nutritional and health Implications". Lipids 31 (1): S287–S291. doi:10.1007/BF02637093. PMID 8729136. 
  11. ^ Shenolikar, I (1980). "Fatty Acid Profile of Myocardial Lipid in Populations Consuming Different Dietary Fats". Lipids 15 (11): 980–982. doi:10.1007/BF02534427. 
  12. ^ Bellenand, JF; Baloutch, G; Ong, N; Lecerf, J (1980). "Effects of Coconut Oil on Heart Lipids and on Fatty Acid Utilization in Rapeseed Oil". Lipids 15 (11): 938–943. doi:10.1007/BF02534418. 
  13. ^ Achaya, KT (1987). "Fat Status of Indians – A Review". Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research 46 (3): 112–126. 
  14. ^ Indu, M; Ghafoorunissa (1992). "n-3 Fatty Acids in Indian Diets – Comparison of the Effects of Precursor (Alpha-Linolenic Acid) vs Product (Long chain n-3 Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids)". Nutrition Research 12 (4–5): 569–582. doi:10.1016/S0271-5317(05)80027-2. 
  15. ^ "Richard Keith Downey: Genetics". 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  16. ^ Storgaard, AK (2008). "Stefansson, Baldur Rosmund". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  17. ^ Barthet, V. "Canola". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-12-29. 
  18. ^ "Biotech Canola – Annual Update 2011" (PDF). International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  19. ^ "Canola Varieties". Canola Growers Manual. Canola Council of Canada. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  20. ^ "OVERVIEW: CANOLA IN SOUTHAFRICA" (PDF). Protein Research Foundation. 
  21. ^ USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Production, Supply and Distribution Online Database, query for Commodity: "Oilseed, Rapeseed"; Data Type: "Production"; Country: "All countries"; Year: "2013". Accessed 23 October 2014
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Optimizing Natural Fertility" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-11. 
  25. ^ "Section 3.1: Leaking Tank Experiments with Orimulsion and Canola Oil" (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS OR&R 6. Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. December 2001. 
  26. ^ a b c d "Comparison of Dietary Fats Chart" (PDF). Canola Council of Canada. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  27. ^ a b c USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21 (2008)
  28. ^ DeFilippis, Andrew P.; Laurence S. Sperling. "Understanding omega-3's" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2007. 
  29. ^ USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22 (2009)
  30. ^ "Protect Your Heart: Choose Fats Wisely" (PDF). American Diabetes Association. 2004. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  31. ^ "Qualified Health Claims, Letter of Enforcement Discretion U.S. Food and Drug Administration". 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  32. ^ Galano, Annia; Francisco-Márquez, Misaela; Alvarez-Idaboy, Juan R. (2011). "Canolol: A Promising Chemical Agent against Oxidative Stress". J. Phys. Chem. B 115 (26): 8590–8596. doi:10.1021/jp2022105. 
  33. ^ Sahasrabudhe, M. R. (1977). "Crismer values and erucic acid contents of rapeseed oils". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society 54 (8): 323. doi:10.1007/BF02672436. 
  34. ^ a b U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 1 April 2010.
  35. ^ The Commission of the European Communities (1980). "Commission Directive 80/891/EEC of 25 July 1980 relating to the Community method of analysis for determining the erucic acid content in oils and fats intended to be used as such for human consumption and foodstuffs containing added oils or fats". EurLex Official Journal 254. 
  36. ^ Food Standards Australia New Zealand (June 2003) Erucic acid in food: A Toxicological Review and Risk Assessment Technical report series No. 21; Page 4 paragraph 1; ISBN 0-642-34526-0, ISSN 1448-3017
  37. ^ Luger CL et al. Food Safety and Foodborne Toxicants. Chapter 14 in Hayes' Principles and Methods of Toxicology, Sixth Edition. Eds A. Wallace Hayes, Claire L. Kruger. CRC Press, 2014 ISBN 9781842145371. Quote: "In humans. however. although the long-term use of Lorenzo's oil (oleic acid and erucic acid) in the treatment of adrenoleukodystrophy or adrenomyeloneuropathy leads to thrombocytopenia and lymphopenia (Unkrig et al. 1994), adverse effects from dietary consumption of erucic acid have not been reported."
  38. ^ Reddy, Chada S.; Hayes, A. Wallace (2007). "Foodborne Toxicants". In Hayes, A. Wallace. Principles and methods of toxicology (5th ed.). London, UK: Informa Healthcare. p. 640. ISBN 0-8493-3778-X. 
  39. ^ Luger CL et al. Food Safety and Foodborne Toxicants. Chapter 14 in Hayes' Principles and Methods of Toxicology, Sixth Edition. Eds A. Wallace Hayes, Claire L. Kruger. CRC Press, 2014 ISBN 9781842145371. Quote: "In humans. however. although the long-term use of Lorenzo's oil (oleic acid and erucic acid) in the treatment of adrenoleukodystrophy or adrenomyeloneuropathy leads to thrombocytopenia and lymphopenia (Unkrig et al. 1994), adverse effects from dietary consumption of erucic acid have not been reported."
  40. ^ USDA Economic Research Service. Last updated: October 10, 2012 Canola
  41. ^ a b c d e "Nutrient database, Release 24". United States Department of Agriculture.  All values in this column are from the USDA Nutrient database unless otherwise cited.
  42. ^ a b c d e Katragadda, H. R.; Fullana, A. S.; Sidhu, S.; Carbonell-Barrachina, Á. A. (2010). "Emissions of volatile aldehydes from heated cooking oils". Food Chemistry 120: 59. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2009.09.070. 
  43. ^ a b c d e f Wolke, Robert L. (May 16, 2007). "Where There's Smoke, There's a Fryer". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 5, 2011. 
  44. ^ Fatty acid composition of important plant and animal fats and oils (German) 21 December 2011, Hans-Jochen Fiebig, Münster
  45. ^ Scheda tecnica dell'olio di palma bifrazionato PO 64 (Italian)
  46. ^ Beckie, Hugh et al (Autumn 2011) GM Canola: The Canadian Experience Farm Policy Journal, Volume 8 Number 8, Autumn Quarter 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012
  47. ^ Johnson, Stanley R. et al Quantification of the Impacts on US Agriculture of Biotechnology-Derived Crops Planted in 2006 National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy, Washington DC, February 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  48. ^ "GM crop escapes into the American wild". Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  49. ^ eurofins. Last updated 31 January 2014 Genetically Modified Canola
  50. ^ "GM canola gets the green light". Sydney Morning Herald. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  51. ^ for example Price, Libby (6 September 2005). "Network of concerned farmers demands tests from Bayer". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-10-10.  and "Greenpeace has the last laugh on genetic grains talks". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 March 2003. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  also Cauchi, Stephen (25 October 2003). "GM: food for thought". The Age. Retrieved 2007-10-20. 
  52. ^ GM Crops and Stockfeed
  53. ^ GM Carnations in Australia
  54. ^ Federal Court of Appeal of Canada. Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser (C.A.) [2003] 2 F.C. 165. Retrieved 25 March 2006.
  55. ^ "Monsanto vs Schmeiser: In the Spotlight". Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 

External links[edit]