Rapeseed Facts

Brassica napus Linnaeus—known as rapeseed, rape, oilseed rape, and in some cultivars, Canola—is a bright yellow flowering member of the Brassicacea family (mustard or cabbage family). It is a mustard crop grown primarily for its seed which yields about forty percent oil and a high-protein animal feed.

Seed Type and Common Varieties

Since 1991, virtually all rapeseed production in the European Union has shifted to rapeseed 00 (double zero), with low content of erucic acid and low content of glucosinolates. The production of rapeseed in the European Union is still “conventional”, that is does not contain GMO.

Where Rapeseed is Grown

Worldwide production of rapeseed/canola rose to 47 million metric tons in 2006, of which the total EU-25 production accounts for 16 million metric tons.

Top Rapeseed Producing Countries

(million metric tons) China     12.2

World Total     47.0 

Major Products

Rapeseed oil generally contains a high level of erucic acid, which is mildly toxic to humans in large doses. Traditional and other uses have been for lamp oils, soap making, high-temperature and tenacious high-erucic acid lubricating oils, and plastics manufacturing. With the shift to rapeseed 00 in the European Union, the low erucic acid content of the resulting rapeseed oil and its specific fatty acid composition make it a highly appreciated edible oil. As the European rapeseed production is “conventional” (that is non-GMO), the preference of the European food customer goes to rapeseed oil produced in Europe over other oils or other origins that might be produced from GMO.

Rapeseed oil has also become the primary feedstock for biodiesel in Europe (estimates for 2006: more than 4.0 million tons of rapeseed oil went into biodiesel).

Processing of rapeseed for oil production provides rapeseed animal meal as a by-product. The by-product is a high-protein animal feed. The feed is mostly employed for cattle feeding, but also for hogs and poultry (though less valuable for these). The meal (from rapeseed 00) has a very low content of the glucosinolates responsible for metabolism disruption in cattle and pigs.

Common Processes

Rapeseed is normally processed in two steps:

Some smaller plants are only press-plants and do not apply the second step of hexane extraction. This results in a high oil content in the cake, which makes this process economically not viable because of the high price differential between rapeseed oil and rapeseed meal or cake.