[This is a fast-access FAQ excerpt.]
"Canola" is defined as any of several varieties of the rape
plant having seeds that contain less than 2% erucic acid, and whose
solid component contains less than 30 micromoles per gram of
glucosinolates. (This has been the statutory definition in Canada
since 1986.) If you ever come across rapeseed oil that is *not*
canola, avoid it, because erucic acid causes heart lesions, and
glucosinolates cause thyroid enlargement and poor feed conversion!
Rape plants have been grown in Europe since the 13th century;
rapeseed oil was used in Asia and Europe originally in lamps, and
later as a cooking oil. Canola was developed between 1958 and 1974
by two Canadian scientists, Baldur Stefansson and Richard Downey.
Dictionaries have variously explained "canola" as standing for
"Canada oil, low acid", and as a blend of "Canada" and "colza". I
imagine that "Mazola" (a brand name for corn [= "maize"] oil) had an
"Canola" was originally a trademark in Canada, but is now a
generic term. It's the only term one is now likely to encounter
there on packaging and in newspapers and books; some sources do say
that canola was "formerly called rape". But the term "rape" still
has some currency among Canadian farmers. (Although "rape" denoting
the plant is etymologically unconnected with "rape" meaning forced
sexual intercourse, the homonymy doubtless contributed to the former
term's falling into disfavour.)
The Canola Council of Canada, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, told
me that "Canola" was registered as a trademark in 1978 (that's one
year before MWCD10's 1979) by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers'
Association, and that control of the term was transferred in 1980 to
the Rapeseed Association of Canada, which changed its name to the
Canola Council of Canada the same year. They say that the origin is
simply "Canadian oil", that "it's not an acronym", and that rapeseed
oil that does not meet the criteria for canola should still be called
"Designer eggs", low-cholesterol eggs developed at the University
of Alberta, are produced by adding canola and flax to the hens'