Canola is Canada’s second biggest revenue generator behind wheat, and is worth $19 billion to the Canadian economy. And now we’re growing it in Newfoundland — our first harvest of the province’s 30-acre canola field is underway in Pasadena.

This ongoing canola research will determine if canola can reach maturity in the western region, and assess best harvesting practices and determine the general quality of the canola oil and meal. Pure Holsteins Limited in Steady Brook will assess the meal, and various local restaurants will assess the quality of the canola oil.

The hope is that “the canola crop will contribute to an increasingly innovative agriculture industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.” Our agriculture industry currently provides approximately 6,500 jobs and has a worth of about $500 million. According to the premiere himself, “If our research proves successful, canola could become one of our most important crops.”

Steve Crocker, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods reports that the first batch of canola planted this spring “grew exceptionally well, surpassing our researcher’s expectations” and that “all indications pointed to a high yield and high quality harvest.” Crocker adds that a successful canola operation will be good for the island’s well-known food security issues.

The Good Story of Canola Oil

It is low in saturated fat (the bad fats) and high in unsaturated fats (the good fats), and high in the omega-3 fatty acid that protects against heart attacks and strokes by helping to lower bad cholesterol, and is high in Linoleic acid, the omega-6 fatty acid important for the brain. It has some vitamin E and K too, and is cholesterol free. In fact, it lowers your cholesterol. Vitamin E fights cancer and memory loss. Ultimately, it’s better, and better for you, than most vegetable oils, but not up there with coconut or olive oil.

The Bad Story of Canola Oil

Canola oil is short for Canada Oil — we created this plant by genetically engineering the rape seed plant to create a crop that is extremely cheap to grow and harvest. And therein lies the wariness of Canola Oil: rape seed oil was initially used for industrial purposes, and its “glucosinolates” give rape seed oil a bad taste.

Worse still, the Erucic acid in rape seed is link to heart damage in rats, as well as fatty degeneration of the heart, kidney, adrenals and thyroid glands. And a Wall Street journal implied its smoke can cause lung cancer.

So can an oil derived from rape seed oil really be good? Well ,that was the intention: Canadian scientists turned rape seed oil into a more pleasurable, edible oil, with less of these harmful, bitter substances. They succeeded, but it does mean canola is not a natural plant, and is labelled in Europe as a genetically modified food. It’s also a seed genetically modified by Monsanto to be immune to the pesticide, RoundUp.

Canola oil is made one of two ways. The industrialized process is not good. It involves an unnatural processing using high heat, deodorization (to mask the the damage done by the heat), and the toxic solvent hexane is used to extract the oil.

However, cold-pressed and organic canola oil does not go through the sketchier processes, so it wouldn’t contain the unhealthy oxidized fats or trans fats and by-products of the oil made via the industrialized method.

In any case, according to the EPA, canola oil’s “toxicological profiles are similar to those of other vegetable oils that are used as food.”