Canola: Rapeseed Oil By Any Other Name

No small wonder, before supercharging the world-wide marketing of this cultivar of Brassica napa, that the Canucks would want to change its name from “rapeseed oil” to Canola–Canada Oil.

So much for the power of words, even though the term RAPE in this case is Latin for TURNIP.

This turnip oil was once spurned by the health-conscious for its high levels of heart-damaging erucic acid in the native rapeseed. Even so it has been used for thousands of years for animal feed and such. It has more recently been genetically modified by direct gene replacement (hence it is a genetically modified organism or GMO in today’s terms) to contain higher amounts of a more healthy fatty acid and is now the third-largest source of vegetable oil in the world, chief production being in Canada of course, followed by China and India. The US is way down the list.

And truly, this is a pretty versatile seed plant. From Wikipedia:

“Rapeseed is grown for the production of animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption, and biodiesel; leading producers include the European Union, Canada, China, India, France, Germany, and Australia. In India, 6.7 million tons are produced annually.[4] According to the United States Department of Agriculture, rapeseed was the third-leading source of vegetable oil in the world in 2000, after soybean and palm oil; the world’s second-leading source of protein meal; and forms one-fifth of the production of the leading soybean meal.[citation needed] World production is growing rapidly.”

Some 90% of canola is GMO, so here, we don’t really need a label to tell us what’s in the bottle. The Modifiers of this GMO include the folks at Monsanto, who also incorporate into their patented seeds the genes for resistance to their wonderful, harmless, save-the-world herbicide, Roundup, with its active ingredient glyphosate. (You’d have to be living under a rock NOT to have seen the recent news about the suspected carcinogenic nature of Roundup.)

Is Canola Oil safe to consume? Monsanto and the Canadian corporations who produce and distribute and profit from it tell us that it is, and based on what I know about it today, I would not refuse for health concerns to use it in small quantities, though I hope we will not purchase it. Others make dire and exaggerated claims of its ill effects. Some of those claims are likely worth more study.

That glyphosate genes from Canola subspecies can become incorporated into wild rapeseed relatives is a certainty. There is a lot we don’t know about human-created genes in the wild. Oh well. Damn the torpedoes. The law suits will continue. Resistance to GMO seed is not futile, however, and environmental more than the health concerns loom large for me.

The bottom line when I see vast fields of yellow–as we did in parts of Illinois and Indiana last week–is that the lovely saffron monoculture is a symptom of a very broad and pernicious relationship between the burgeoning human enterprise and the planet that must sustain all forms of life–not just the 10 billion hungry humans of my grandchildren’s time. In the end, here again, profit dictates the “truth” so this subject bears more than a casual look.

Here are some canola-related links. I learned something, and leave these resources perhaps for someone to become better informed. For a quick so-what, I recommend especially the first two links below.

Monsanto Knew of Glyphosate / Cancer Link 35 Years Ago | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

They Are Biocides, Not Pesticides — And They Are Creating an Ecocide | Andrew Kimbrell

Is Canola Oil Bad for you?

Genetically modified canola – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Genetically Modified Crop on the Loose and Evolving in U.S. Midwest – Scientific American

Rapeseed – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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