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Canola oil banned in Europe?

I have been reading a lot recently on the prevalence of Genetically Modified (GM) foods in our diet here in this country. For all sorts of detailed information you can check out An Urban Plot and GM Watch. I won’t try to cover all the details here but I wanted to bring one point to mind while you are picking out your next cooking oil…Have you ever seen a Canola plant? Olive oil comes from olives, peanut oil from peanuts…how about canola oil? Did you know that there are groups who want to make canola oil banned in Europe?   Yup, the oil that health experts seem to be telling us is oh so healthy here in the US is the subject of a fair amount of controversy in other countries.

canola oil banned in europe

Is Canola Oil Banned In Europe?

What is canola oil?  Here is a quick explanation: Basically, someone took a plant called the Rape plant (horribly bad name!) and modified  it so that the resulting seed oil was non toxic. Prior to is alteration,  rapeseed oil was toxic and used only in industrial practices. Since this was done in Canada, the name was created…CAN (Canada) O (oil) LA (low acid).  The Canola Council states these modifications were done with old fashioned plant breeding techniques but today’s strains of plants used for Canola oil production are almost all genetically modified.  Canada and the United States produce between 7 and 10 million tonnes of canola seed per year.  Most of that canola oil comes from genetically modified plants.


There are a number of controversies regarding genetically modified foods. In my opinion, the concerns for human health and the environment are valid. These are plants that were artificially created and selected in a laboratory.  I have nothing against science!  I am a scientist myself and have actually worked in many labs like the one above.  However, I do not feel that science should inserting genes into plants that will eventually become my dinner.   I would love to see labeling requirements for products that contain GMO’s but pockets are deep in the government when it comes to food labeling laws.  According to the European Food Standard’s Agency, “if a food contains or consists of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or contains ingredients produced from GMOs, this must be indicated on the label.”  So, while no one has managed to get canola oil banned in Europe YEP, it does have to be labeled as a genetically modified food.  Bet that cuts down on profits over in Europe, huh?  And that is one of the reasons why the people at the top of the food production pyramid don’t want GMO labeling laws passed here in the US.  Maybe there are people who don’t care if their food is genetically modified but if I was presented with a bottle of GMO canola oil or a bottle of olive oil, I would certainly skip the one that scientists created in the laboratory.  My food should come from nature, not a lab!

So, what do you think?  Stricter labeling laws, a complete ban on GMO foods, or do you just not care what you are eating?

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About Diane

Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can't quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke!


  1. It’s legal, and they actually produce some there. I think it’s just illegal to grow genetically modified plants there. I would really rather use olive oil than canola…

  2. 25% of rape seed plants are genetically modified.
    The plants are modified to be insect pest resistance and or to help keep the weeds from growing. This is what we are eating……

    Our children are developing life-threatening allergies to peanuts and other foods. The GM foods can be in your baby food without you knowing.
    The bees and butterflies are dying has be sited as the insect pest resistance plants don’t target the bad, but can kill the helpful bugs. How do we know that we are not making super bugs. Mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned pesticide DDT.

  3. Thank you for your comments! I dislike greatly the modification of plants to be pesticide resistant since, as you stated, pesticides kill ALL bugs, even the helpful ones. And Christie, I agree, olive oil is a much better choice!

  4. Interesting. We use olive oil whenever we can, but when it comes to baking cakes and popping popcorn, we’ve used canola oil. I had no idea about any of that!

  5. Michelle says:

    This is really confusing to me. My husband is from Germany and he told me they use the rape seed oil all the time. They decided not to take the canola name. So yes, they use it. But wouldn’t it be genetically modified then? I heard canola is 100% genetically modified. But maybe there are 2 different types of modify. The rapeseed one, had to be modified for human consumption so it would not be toxic and not for motor oil. But if it use to be toxic, does that make it okay now? But fuji apples and seedless watermelons have also been manipulated by science but are technically not on the GMO list (soy, corn, cottonseed, canola). I just don’t understand why Europe would use something modified when it could be potentially dangerous. They out right BAN everything else!

  6. Honestly, I do not understand the intricacies of GM regulations. It concerns me that we went from toxic to non toxic in the blink of a laboratory minute. However, gentic modification has been around for eons…it just used to take several generations of plants to actually create change!

    • You raise an interesting point that requires some clarification. There is a HUGE difference between breeding and sorting offspring to create or accentuate certain desired characteristics and genetic modification. They are NOT the same, not at all.

      In selective breeding and sorting all of the genetic material in the offspring is native to the original plant species. Bad outcomes are still possible, such as strains that are no longer sustainable over generations, undesirable nutritional characteristics, etc. But good outcomes also are possible when these techniques are intelligently and mindfully used. And there is a long tradition of selective breeding so we have a pretty good record to use to help predict outcomes.

      In contrast, in genetic modifications, genetic material from completely different species are often introduced. For example, it may sound outlandish, but it actually is done that genetic material from a frog could wind up being artificially spliced into the genetic material of corn. I am not kidding! The field of GMO tinkering for profit really is that crazy.

      And if you need more convincing, ask why it is that Monsanto, (probably the world’s largest and most aggressively promoter and seller of GMO products and technologies insists that they are safe for us but will not allow them in their own executive dining rooms.

      • Old fashioned genetic modification has been going on for centuries and doesnt concern me. Taking plants into labs and splicing in genetic material that doesn’t belong in there needs to stop before we completely screw up our food system. I am definitely NOT a fan of Monsanto!

  7. Wow this is really scary!

  8. Benjamin says:

    My biggest concern over vegetable oils are the high concentrations of PUFAs not found from other sources, which could have serious health repercussions. There’s certainly high concentrations of certain types of omega-6 fatty acids in canola oil, which you wouldn’t find in palm or olive oils.

    • I tend to stick to olive oil because it is more ‘natural’. I avoid Palm oil mainly due to issues surrounding deforestation and how they plant and harvest the crops. I do use vegetable oil for baking since olive oil seems to have a bit more ‘flavor’ to it that doesnt go will in cookies…

  9. People don’t realize how bad canola oil is for you, it is still rapeseed. It should be banned here in Canada too, I refuse to eat anything with canola oil in it. If everyone did this, companies would have to change or go out of business. Now that’s something to think about.

    • I dont buy it to cook with but admit I am not always great about reading ingredient labels to avoid it completely. I am still suspicious of it and prefer olive oil whenever possible!

  10. I am a supporter for gmos. I have a background inbiochemistry and upon reading the many articles about gmos (both scientific and not) I dont see a reason as to why consuming a gmo would be bad for you. Essentially it is a sped up version of evolution. Evolution that would have taken many more years to happen naturally.

    • My biggest concern about GMOS isn’t so much their effect on US but their effect on the environment and the control the patent holders have over the seeds and crops. But, I admit I am a little leery of some genetically modified products…

  11. Since there is no information on food labels to indicate whether a food or any of it’s ingredients are genetically modified or not and given the prevalence of genetically modified foods in the Unitied Sates today, I suspect that it would be quite hard to avoid eating genetically modified foods over the long haul. I mostly avoid canola oil in favor of Olive Oil and I use Land of Lakes butter and olive oil spread. I am also trying to a keep my consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat down. I do occasionally us their Honey Butter Spread, which has Canola oil in it, because I like it and it agrees with me in other ways. I have to wonder how much difference this actually makes, since I am probably consuming a lot of genetically modified foods without even knowing it. It seems to me that it is quite possible and maybe even probable that some of the fresh foods that we buy in the grocery store’s produce department may also be genetically modified. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • I agree I think GMO foods are just about everywhere and hard to avoid. I tend to stick to olive oil or organic butter since I think those are the most ‘natural’. Lately I have been using a lot of coconut oil, too, but that has it’s own concerns. We can only do so much!

  12. robert sabella says:

    Hi Diane, Thanks so much for this. I am (desperately) trying to bring awareness about canola to the general public here in Vancouver, British Columbia. All but one restaurant in Vancouver, that I am aware of, unknowingly use canola oil and think that it is ‘healthy’. Even those restaurants that pride themselves on using local, organic and healthy ingredients.

    Can you please comment on the rest of the canola oil making process, which is equally toxic and disturbing? For instance, the extremely high temperatures it is heated to? There is also a wealth of medical evidence out there that point to bizarre and extreme growths and tumors that are related to long term ingestion of this substance.

    It is plainly deceptive and misleading to find bottles of canola oil in organic grocery stores that state that it is a non-GMO and ‘cold-pressed’ oil when these statements cannot be true when one examines the big picture.

    Any more information you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

  13. I know the effects which result from consuming canola oil all too well, I cannot tolerate any of it. I was told in the 90’s I had GERD, yet instead of telling me that I needed to avoid canola oil and other GM foods and food additives, I was given prescriptions to “control” the GERD. At one point I was on 2 medications. It took years of research and a complete switch to an organic diet to discover just how bad the foods are in US grocery stores and in restaurants. People are conditioned to believe complete lies about food safety. The Generally Regarded As Safe labeling of genetically modified crops is unacceptable because it is lacking scientific proof through independent studies. Everything that is modified is a forced mutation. The corporations and their “scientists” pushing this horror on the public should be required to be the lab rats to prove whether their genetically mutated crops are safe; not the uninformed and uneducated public. Everyone must become educated and start making more sensible decisions about the foods they are consuming. Especially fast and junk foods. All of the information to make informed decisions is available on the internet. However, you must use extreme caution when reading the “pro” side of these issues as they are usually sponsored by special interests of the biotech firms creating the mutations.

  14. Bec - BSc, MSc, (PhD in progress) says:

    Instead of replying to each of the comments individually, i have chosen to write one long reply to all those with concerns/questions above.
    Please read and if you still have questions use google scholar to find peer reviewed papers on the subject.

    Canola is almost a brand name for oil seed rape (Brassica napus) originally domesticated and bred in Canada, but the same plant is commonly referred to as oilseed rape or rapeseed in Europe – though different varieties are grown in Europe and America. Some people also don’t like the ‘rape’ part of the the plants common name.
    Oil seed rape was domesticated from the wild mustard plant quite recently in history by selective breeding over a couple of hundred years, much in the same way as sheep and cows have been domesticated from their wild ancestors. This form of breeding (aka modification) takes plants with ideal characteristics – such as high seed yield, small plants, pest/disease resistant etc – and crosses them with another plant with the preferred characteristics. This is a natural process which occurs naturally between plants in the wild, but humans select plants for specific uses/reasons, such as seeds with lower acid content.
    This process can take hundreds of years (in the case of oil seed rape) or thousands of years ( in the case of wheat and rice).

    Genetically modified organisms are produced by manipulating plant genes in a laboratory environment. Genes are a code which provide the information/blueprint of how the plant will be – tall, short, resistant to disease, susceptible, low seed acid content etc. Genes may be added or removed to increase desirable features and/or reduce undesirable ones – in the same way that selective breeding (as explained above) achieves over a very long period of time. Alternatively, genes from another plant or organism are added into the code – these provide features that would not naturally occur in the plant. Golden rice is an example where the rice has been modified to produce beta-Carotene – an essential vitamin which people who live off just rice lack.

    Oil seed rape (Brassica napus) in Europe has been created using the first method, where as Brassica napus originally produced in Canada (where the name Canola comes from) was modified using the second method. Canadian bred Brassica napus has been bred for the same features as European plants, but has also been genetically modified to be resistant to weedkillers, so that whole fields can be covered to kill off anything that is not the farmed plant.

    Don’t fear the method, be concerned about the application.

    Hope this helps some people to be more informed :)

    Author of this post – A plant scientist with experience in Oil Seed Rape production

    • Thankyou for such a thorough reply! I have a background in science so the genetics itself doesn’t concern me too much when it comes to natural selection of sturdy plants. Not a huge fan of genetic modification using genes from other organisms or modifying a plant so we can dump tons of pesticides all over it. I have seen some ‘organic canola oil’ which I would consider using. Thanks again!

  15. Marie-Louise says:

    PLEASE check out this link for everything you need to know about Canola Oil: A lot of what has been said about Canola Oil is nothing but a myth.

    pay CLOSE attention to the question: “Was Canola developed using genetic engineering?”

    Canola was developed using traditional plant breeding techniques, so it was not developed using biotechnology. However, about 80% of the canola grown in Canada has now been modified using biotechnology to make it tolerant to some herbicides. Using these specific herbicides has reduced the amount of chemical needed for weed control in the fields.

    Remember – the canola plant has been modified, not the oil. So canola oil from the herbicide tolerant plant is exactly the same safe and healthy oil as canola oil from conventional plants. The modification has been made to only one canola gene and it is a protein. Processing removes all proteins from canola oil. That means canola oil made from GM seed is conventional canola oil.

    Another Question asked: Has Europe banned Canola Oil?

    Answer: Europe has never banned Canola Oil! The European Union (EU) countries together produce more canola than Canada! Europeans call their canola “oilseed rape” – and call the oil “rape oil” or “rapeseed oil” – but it is canola. They chose not to adopt the new name “canola” when it was developed. So Europeans consume canola oil every day – and have ever since canola was introduced in Europe shortly after being developed in Canada!

    The difference is that European farmers are prevented by law from growing genetically modified canola (or any GM crop). Europeans therefore consume canola oil from non-GM plants. Most of the canola oil from Canada can be exported to the EU and the EU has also approved some of the GM canola seed for processing.

    Canola oil produced from GM plants is safe and healthy. And canola oil itself does not contain any GM ingredients. The GM modification is made to one canola gene and it is a protein. All proteins are removed from canola oil during processing so canola oil made from GM plants is no different from conventional canola oil.

    Check the website given above. They answer ALL your questions truthfully!

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