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The canola oil myth

Canola is a genetically modified oil that comes from the rapeseed plant.
Canola is a genetically modified oil that comes from the rapeseed plant.
Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Olive oil is extracted from an olive plant; grape seed oil is extracted from a grape plant; coconut oil comes from a coconut tree; canola oil is extracted from… a canola plant?

The popular oil, marketed in the United States as heart healthy because of its high monounsaturated fat oils, does not come from a real plant.

So if a canola oil plant does not exist, how does the oil exist?

The History:

Canola oil is made from a rapeseed plant. Because of its high levels of erucic acid (a fatty acid that is associated with a heart disease called Keshan’s), rapeseed oil was never consumed. Instead, it was used as a lubricant for ships and steam engines, because unlike most oils, it sticks to wet metal.

For this reason, rapeseed oil became crucial in the production of building ships in World War II. The U.S. could not get the oil from traditional suppliers in Europe and Asia, so the Canadian rapeseed industry began to boom and play an important role in the naval efforts of the allies. In the process, the industry became powerful and profitable.

When the war ended, so did the profitability of rapeseed oil. Rapeseed oil was no longer needed for war equipment and it was not edible for humans, yet fields of the plants were plentiful.

The high content of erucic acid was the only thing standing in the way of making a profit and marketing the oil to humans. So, the Canadian rapeseed industry discovered a method to insert a lab-produced gene into the rapeseed to lower the levels of erucic acid. In 1978, the term “canola” was coined, derived from Canadian oil, low acid.

The Scam:

The oil became marketable in the U.S. in the 1980s after the Food and Drug Administration’s approval. Because the oil is easier and cheaper to produce than other oils, the oil could be produced quickly in large quantities at a low price. As a result, the FDA promoted canola oil as a “heart-healthy” alternative to “artery-clogging” fats like butter due to its monounsaturated fat content.

What the reports failed to mention was the other properties of the oil that had unknown and reported health risks. The reports also did not identify canola as a genetically modified oil made from the toxic and banned rapeseed plant.

In addition to canola oil being unidentifiable to your body due to its genetically modified qualities, 82 percent of canola seed is patented by Monsanto and is doused several times throughout production with a toxic herbicide called Roundup, which is known to harm both people and the environment. Since drifting of the contaminant is impossible to stop, the remaining 18 percent of canola seed may be consequently in contact with the herbicide as well.

Healthier alternative options to canola oil include organic extra virgin olive oil, organic virgin coconut oil, and organic grass-fed butter.