What is canola, the source of canola oil? Have you ever seen this little green plant with a brownish tubular shoot rising above the…? No. Wait a minute. Don’t leave. Not yet anyway. I’m not going to lie to you. There’s no such thing as a canola.
What is Canola? What is Canola Oil?
What is canola? The word stands for Canadian Oil, Low Acid. So the oil comes from Canada. And, whether naturally or artificially, it is low in acid. But what is a canola? What kind of plant is that? From the rapeseed plant. Sound appetizing? Let’s not judge a book by its cover.
A Matter of Breeding?
J.Am.Coll.Nutr. (1989), in an article by J. Dupont, et al reports, canola oil is “expressed from a cultivar of rapeseed that was selectively bred from old varieties in Canada to be very low in erucic acid…” This move was taken to reduce the health risk of hypercholesterolemia. In other words, the measure was taken to decrease the likelihood of consumers developing coronary artery disease.
A Change for the Better?
Hence, at least originally, canola oil was not the product of genetic modification. Much of the oil currently in use, notably since the beginning of the 21st century, does come from modified plants, but that was not the original approach to improving the product so that it would be safer for human consumption. So the issue is two-fold. Is non-GMO rapeseed-based oil safe for consumption, and if it is, can the same be said for its GMO counterpart?
Is It Safe?
Modified or not, canola oil is considered by the Food and Drug Administration to be GRAS, or generally recognized as safe. A 2012 letter to the FDA, here linked, indicates the oil is safe overall, but suggests some cautionary measures be taken in the preparation of infant formula products.
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- FDA: Code of Federal Regulations – Rapeseed Oil
- USDA: Commodity Intelligence Report – Biodiesel Demand Continues Pushing Rapeseed Are Up In The EU
- GMO Compass: Rapeseed
- FDA: Agency Response Letter GRAS Notice No. GRN 000425