GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
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Until recently, rapeseed was a relatively unimportant crop. But as soon as plant breeders were able to get rid of two undesirable substances, rapeseed started to become more interesting. Today it is grown not only as a raw material for biodiesel, industrial oils, and lubricants, it is also used as a source of cooking oil for margarine production. For the time being, no GM rapeseed is grown in Europe.

Rapeseed is an important food crop, a fact that was made possible through modern plant breeding. Around 1960, researchers started developing new rapeseed cultivars that enabled the crop’s rapid growth in recent years.

These improved rapeseed cultivars were free of erucic acid and glucosinolates. Erucic acid tastes bitter and had prevented the use of rapeseed oil in food. Gluconsinolates, which were found in rapeseed meal leftover from pressing, are toxic and had prevented the use of the meal in animal feed. These new cultivars are known as "double-zero" rapeseed. In Canada, where "double-zero" rapeseed was developed, the crop was renamed "canola" (Canadian oil) to differentiate it from non-edible rapeseed.

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Golden fields of rapeseed: There has been a noticeable increase in rapeseed cultivation in the last decade. New cultivars are responsible for the use of rapeseed in food and feed.

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Ripening seed pods: Rapeseed oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. But a different fatty acid composition would be better for some applications. Genetic engineering could be used to optimise the fatty acid composition of rapeseed oil.


Rapeseed: A source of food and feed

When the first "00" rapeseed cultivars hit the market about twenty years ago, they became a valuable raw material for food and feed.

  • Refined rapeseed oil has been used extensively for the production of margarine. With its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (60-70%), rapeseed oil has also become important as a healthy cooking oil.

  • Rapeseed can be used to produce certain emulsifiers, vitamin E, and substances that can help lower cholesterol levels.

  • Rapeseed meal leftover from oil pressing is a valuable, protein-rich animal feed that is often used for raising swine.

Although many field trials with genetically modified rapeseed have been conducted in Europe, it is not yet being grown commercially. Several lines of GM rapeseed have been approved for production and use as food and feed.

GM rapeseed has been grown in Canada since 1996. In 2007, GM rapeseed was grown on 5.1 million hectares, which made up approximately 87 percent of Canada's rapeseed crop. GM rapeseed is grown to a lesser degree in the US and in certain states in Australia.

All of the GM rapeseed grown throughout the world is herbicide resistant, which enables a more efficient and effective approach to weed control.

Shifting the spectrum of fatty acids: Oils by design

Genetically modified rapeseed cultivars could soon be available that have changes in the composition of their oil. The types of fatty acids found in an oil are what determine its physical and nutritional properties.

  • Genetically modified rapeseed could be developed with a higher content of long-chain fatty acids. Fatty acids with longer side chains remain solid at higher temperatures. This means that margarine could be produced with fewer processing steps.

  • Certain applications require a higher composition of mid-chain fatty acids. For several years, a GM rapeseed cultivar was grown in the United States that contained a gene needed for the production of lauric acid. This mid-chain fatty acid, usually produced from coconut milk, is used as a raw material for the production of detergent additives. GM rapeseed enriched with lauric acid can also be used for producing fat-based coatings in food processing. Apparently, this GM rapeseed cultivar did not meet its expectations. It is no longer being grown.

Some projects are working on enriching rapeseed with other substances. GM rapeseed lines with increased vitamin A content are currently in development.


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

More information


GMO Soybeans & Sustainability

Less soil erosion and fuel consumption: herbicide tolerant soybeans are promoting sustainable cultivation methods.


Glyphosate in European agriculture

Interview with a farmer

Glyphosate containing herbicides are not only used in fields with GM crops. They also allow conventional farmers to sow directly into stubble fields without ploughing. Glyphosate has replaced mechanical weed control in many crops and has had an important impact on agricultural practices and crop yields in Europe over the past few decades.

European Glyphosate Task Force

Crops and Cereals
Gm Plants: Cultivation and Futur Projects
Rape Seed
Sugar beet
December 4, 2008 [nach oben springen]

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