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Michael Eskin

Michael Eskin, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba (U of M) was awarded the 2023 Canola Award of Excellence for his crucial role in the development of canola oil.

When Eskin joined the U of M in 1968, Baldur Stefansson and Keith Downey were cross-breeding rapeseed in the process of developing canola. “My colleague, the late professor Marion Vaisey-Genser, sensory specialist, pulled me into the research. My role was to look at the composition, stability and performance of the oil that would become canola. We were commissioned by the Canola Council to prepare the first major booklet on canola oil to promote its science and technology to health professionals and food industry people around the world.”

At the time, the group had no idea of the implications of the work they were doing. “I feel very fortunate to have been part of this remarkable development, which changed the agricultural landscape of Manitoba and Canada,” he says.

“Dr. Eskin’s involvement in canola oil research throughout his career is what made him stand out,” says Chuck Fossay, president, Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA). “From his early involvement in the development of canola oil, to his efforts in solving problems associated with the oil over the years, to his current work with colleagues looking at some of the antioxidant and anti-cancer properties of the phenolics in canola. Dr. Eskin has a long list of accomplishments and MCGA is thrilled to recognize him with this award.”

Eskin was honoured to accept the Canola Award of Excellence and appreciated the recognition from Manitoba canola growers, “the ones who produce this product, a significant contributor to the economy of Manitoba. Thank you for this honour.”

Eskin says his work on canola was collaborative, and that working with colleagues and graduate students over the years has been critical to their success. “This was a team effort and I feel fortunate to be part of a dedicated group of scientists who worked so well together. Sadly, many have since passed away, but their impact on Manitoban and Canadian agriculture has been enormous.”

Eskin has published over 150 research papers, 70 chapters and 17 books, including Canola and Rapeseed: Production, Processing, Food Quality, and Nutrition, and Canola: Chemistry, Production, Processing, and Utilization. He has been recognized with numerous prestigious awards including the Order of Canada and the Order of Manitoba for his contributions to the development of canola oil as well as being one of the world’s leading Food Science writers. One of his many scientific awards, the 2020 Supelco AOCS research award, is considered the world prize in lipids. In 2022 he was the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in Honour of Nicolas Appert by the Institute of Food Technologists in the USA.

In an interview Eskin told us he has been on a reduced appointment since 2011, but to us, he shows no signs of slowing down. At the time of the interview (December, 2022) he was working on three books.

As he put it, “I’m no teenager, but I am an ager.” This year Eskin will be 82 and is actively supervising, teaching, writing, serving on graduate student committees, reviewing papers for journals, and of course, rapping about lipids. His debut single, ‘Lipids get a real bad rap: it’s just not fair,” teaches listeners about good and bad fats, and his flow is unbeatable.

Manitoba Canola Growers would like to thank Michael Eskin for his active role in the development of canola oil, his continuous work on improving the oil, and for his contributions to the sustained growth and prosperity of Manitoba’s canola industry.