The History of Canola

Canola was developed in the 1970s using traditional plant breeding techniques

For decades, Canadian plant breeders had pursued a high-quality edible oilseed that would thrive on the Canadian prairies. They succeeded by removing the anti-nutritional components from rapeseed.

The result was a healthy oil with very little saturated fat - just 7%, the lowest level of any vegetable oil. 

The plant was named canola - a contraction of Canada and ola, meaning oil.

For more than four decades, plant breeders have continued to improve the yield, plant disease resistance and quality of canola. Today canola is the most profitable crop in Canada, and Canada remains the global centre for spring canola research.

Canola is not rapeseed. While canola's origins were in rapeseed, the two plants are not the same. Their nutritional profiles are very different.

Canola must meet a strict internationally regulated definition, which differentiates it from rapeseed.  It must be less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 micromoles glucosinolates. Oilseed products cannot use the trademarked term, canola, unless they meet this standard.

Canola milestones

1974 - Tower, the first canola, was released. Tower was a Brassica napus variety.

1975 - First canola crushing plant established in Canada.

1977 - Candle, the first Brassica rapa canola variety, was released.

1978 - The term canola was trademarked by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association (now the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association) to differentiate the superior low-erucic acid, low-glucosinolate varieties and their products from rapeseed.

1979 - More than 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) were seeded to canola. During the 1978-79 crop year, Japanese imports of canola seed exceeded 1 million tonnes for the first time.

1985 - Canola receives Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status in the US, opening the doors to the American marketplace.

1988-89 - Puritan canola oil receives the American Health Foundation's Health Product of the Year award and the American College of Nutrition's first ever Product Acceptance Award.

1995 - The first herbicide-tolerant canola variety is released.

2002 - Industry sets new annual production target: 7 million tonnes of seed by 2007.

2004 - First high-stability canola oil introduced.

2007 - Industry sets new annual production target: 15 million tonnes of seed by 2015.

2006 - USDA authorizes a qualified health claim for canola oil based on its high % of unsaturated fats.

2011 - Canadian canola production sets new record (14 million tonnes).

2013 - The 2007 goal of 15 million tonnes by 2015 is exceeded, two years early.

2014 - Industry launches new target: 52 bushels/acre by 2025.