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Canola! Seeds of Innovation

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
Permanent Exhibition
Canola! Seeds of Innovation

The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, along with its partners from the public and private agricultural sectors, is proud to present Canola! Seeds of Innovation, an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of canola as a “made in Canada” crop.

Canola! Seeds of Innovation is an immersive and interactive exhibition exploring the ingenuity of Canadian plant researchers, who took on the challenge of creating a healthy vegetable oil from rapeseed, a little-known plant that grew well on the Prairies. Following decades of collaboration and hard work, they succeeded in developing one of Canada’s most important crops: canola.

The Canola Initiative National Advisory Committee (CINAC)—whose members come from agriculture, academia, NGOs, industry, government and the business world—has helped guide the exhibition development process.

Support for this exhibition has come from Canola Eat Well, the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, SaskCanola, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the Canola Council of Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, the Government of Saskatchewan, the Government of Manitoba, Growing Forward 2. This exhibition was made possible in part through financial support from the Government of Canada.

Explore the scientific, agricultural, economic and social impact of this versatile plant through hands-on discovery, digital games, and audiovisual presentations.

How did we make it possible for canola to survive a herbicide?

The canola plant, like all living things, is made up of cells.

The nucleus of each cell contains DNA.

DNA is like a recipe book. Each page of the book features a recipe that determines the traits of canola, such as the colour of its flowers or the amount of oil in its seeds.

To allow canola to survive a herbicide, its DNA must be modified; in other words, change one, or even several, recipes in its book. 
To accomplish this, scientists have used two methods: genetic engineering and mutagenesis.

Genetic engineering involves inserting a piece of DNA, or a new recipe, into the DNA of an organism. To allow canola to survive a herbicide, scientists must first find a recipe for herbicide-tolerance in another organism.

They discovered it in a soil bacterium. Scientist copied the recipe—or piece of DNA—from the bacterium, and inserted it into the canola recipe book—or DNA.

And voilà! Thanks to this new recipe, canola can now survive a herbicide. Because it contains a piece of DNA from another organism, it is a transgenic plant.

The second method is called mutagenesis. It involves causing genetic mutations in an organism. Instead of adding a new recipe to canola’s book, scientists change some of the ingredients in the book.

To change the ingredients, scientists must first expose the canola cells to a chemical substance, a mutagen, to damage the canola’s recipe book, or DNA.

When the damaged DNA repairs itself, small changes occur. The ingredients for certain recipes change.

To discover whether or not an ingredient would allow the canola to survive a herbicide, scientists expose the mutated cells to a small quantity of the herbicide.
The cells that survive this exposure are grown, then exposed to a larger quantity of herbicide.

And voilà! The new ingredients in the recipe book for this plant allow it to survive a herbicide. Because this canola does not contain a recipe, or DNA, borrowed from another organism, it is not a transgenic plant.

Whether these changes in DNA come through genetic engineering or mutagenesis, they have allowed scientists to develop new herbicide-tolerant varieties of canola.

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This exhibition was made possible in part through financial support from the Government of Canada.