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History of the canola plant

From simple beginnings in the 1940s, Canada's canola industry has faced and overcome many challenges. Alternative markets were developed, nutritional studies were implemented, and extensive plant breeding to modify the nutritional make-up of rapeseed was undertaken.

The 1950s

1950: Area seeded to rapeseed dropped to 162 hectares (400 acres) from a high in 1948 of 32,300 hectares (80,000 acres). The postwar availability of other edible oils eliminated the need for rapeseed, but some processors continued to pursue industrial oil export markets. In the early 1950s, both the National Research Council and private oil processors in Canada were experimenting with edible uses for rapeseed, in part because rapeseed looked so promising from an agronomic standpoint, and Prairie farmers needed an alternative cash crop.

1954: Golden, the first Canadian Brassica napus rapeseed variety, was licensed.

1956-57: The first edible rapeseed oil extract in Canada was produced, marking the beginning of what was to become one of Canada's success stories.

1956: The food and drug directorate of the Department of National Health and Welfare (now Health Canada) ruled that rapeseed was not an approved edible oil in Canada. The department was persuaded to withdraw its objection pending a submission to show that the oil was safe.

1958: After some 18 months of feeding trials on experimental animals, in which no harmful effects from feeding rapeseed oil were observed, the directorate removed its objection. During the same year, Dr. Baldur R. Stefansson and Dr. Keith Downey began breeding work to reduce erucic acid content in rapeseed.

The 1960s

1963: A futures market for rapeseed was established on The Winnipeg Commodity Exchange.

1964: Echo, the first Canadian Brassica campestris (now rapa) rapeseed variety was licensed.

1965: For the first time, more than 400,000 hectares (one million acres) were seeded to rapeseed on the Prairies.

1967: The Rapeseed Association of Canada was founded to represent the needs of the industry from growers through to processors, exporters and end-users.

1968: Oro, the first low-erucic acid B. napus rapeseed variety, was released.

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Canola was bred naturally from its parent rapeseed in the early 1970s. Canola, however, is NOT rapeseed - their nutritional profiles are very different.
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The 1970s

1970: A paper presented at an international conference on rapeseed in Ste. Adele, Quebec, called into question the continued use of rapeseed as an edible oil due to its erucic acid content. Although there was no evidence of harmful effects in humans, the Minister of Health Canada stated that it would be prudent to change over to low-erucic acid varieties as soon as practicable.

1971: Span, the first low-erucic acid B. rapa rapeseed variety was released. Rapeseed acreage in Canada exceeded 2 million hectares (5 million acres) for the first time.

1974: Tower, the first canola, was released. This new B. napus variety meant that Canada could now produce oil and meal which was nutritionally superior to that produced from rapeseed in other parts of the world.

1976: The conversion to low-erucic acid varieties reached an average 98.5%.

1977: Candle, the first B. 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 and low-glucosinolate varieties and their products from the older rapeseed varieties.

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

 

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