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