FOOD BABE COMMENT POST

I appreciate that you are trying to point your readers in a more healthful direction, but there are so many inaccuracies in this piece that I feel you are doing them a disservice.  The negative slant on cottonseed oil is supported by claims that are at best inaccurate and at worst, just plain wrong.  I believe that you have been either misled or misinformed about cottonseed oil, as well as about cotton, in general. 

Specific to cottonseed oil:  cotton is regulated as a food crop in the United States; the American Heart Association and studies such as one from Texas Women’s University in 2012 indicate that cottonseed oil has health benefits; and farming practices and the refining process prevent the presence of pesticides in cottonseed oil.  A more detailed explanation of how cotton and cottonseed oil has been mischaracterized in the article is below.

Firstly, although cotton is neither a fruit nor a vegetable, it is a seed crop; like sunflowers, soybeans, or safflower.  In fact, cotton is regulated as a food crop by the FDA:

o   The Food & Drug Administration states in its Code of Federal Regulations: Title 21: Food and Drugs, Part 172 that “cottonseed products may be used for human consumption.”

As such, it is a subject to the same government oversight as any food.

Secondly, cottonseed, from which the oil is pressed, is not an ‘industrial byproduct.” It is a byproduct of the ginning process by which cotton fiber is removed from the seed, and a way to productively utilize more of the plant.  Dairy farmers have used cottonseed as a feed supplement for decades because it helps provide higher volumes of richer milk. Today, even aquaculture is making use of the protein in cottonseed as an alternative to the more traditional fish meal that is depleting our oceans.

Cottonseed oil is preferred in the preparation of many food products because it has a high smoke point and a neutral flavor.  Because the food cooks quickly, it absorbs less oil and the flavor of the food being cooked is not altered as it might be by a less neutrally-flavored oil. On cottonseed oil, the American Heart Association (AHA) has this to say:

o   According to the AHA, unsaturated vegetable oils, like cottonseed oil, are “heart healthy” when used in moderation. See also AHA’s “Trans Fat Free Solutions: Healthy Oil Resource Frying Fats, Oils & Shortenings,” in which cottonseed oil is featured repeatedly: www.njra.org/upload/AHA%20Resource%20List%20(3)_382527827_522008155150.pdf

o   AHA recommends cottonseed oil as healthy, trans-fat free oil for baking: “Many baking ingredients are now made with 0 grams trans fat. A few are made with healthier vegetable oils such as canola, soy, and cottonseed. …Note that palm oil, butter and other animal fats are high in saturated fat and should be used sparingly.” http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/FacetheFatsRestaurantResources/Baking-without-Trans-Fat_UCM_303915_Article.jsp

Additionally, a 2012 study from Texas Women’s University has this to say:

o   “We conclude that CSO may lower cholesterol effectively, possibly making it a good candidate for inclusion in margarines and shortening, where it originated.”

Cotton is NOT the world’s dirtiest crop. Cotton accounts for only 5.7% of global pesticides sales, according to Cropnosis, an organization that monitors global chemical sales. In the U.S., cotton growers have reduced pesticide applications by 50% over the past 30 years.  Cotton is not an excessive user of water, either.  In fact, cotton is drought and heat tolerant.  It uses just 3% of the world’s agricultural water, yet provides textile fiber, feed, food and other materials in every harvest.

By the “fourth largest lake,” I assume you mean the Aral Sea.  The tragic depletion of this body of water was not because cotton needs a lot of water, but because the government in the region at the time thought more water would equal more yield. 

The WHO document you cite as proof that pesticides are persistent in cotton apparel is actually from the Pesticide Action Network, which is a pro-organic organization, and not one likely to say anything positive about the use of pesticides.  A less biased and more reliable source of information would be the Bremen Exchange in Germany. This independent organization tests raw cotton fiber samples from around the world each year and U.S. cotton, at least, has consistently been free of harmful residue. But, even if residue were present, it would be removed in the cleaning processes that occur as fiber becomes yarn, fabric and, ultimately, apparel.

The Indian farmer suicides you reference is another tragedy, but not a cotton-specific issue. It has also been widely decried as a non-GMO issue. I would recommend that you read this article from Nature, or this by Kevan Senapathy that appeared in Forbes to get a more comprehensive picture of this issue.

This has become a lengthy post, so I will conclude here by extending an invitation to reach out to Cotton Incorporated for data on any future cotton stories. As a global research organization for the cotton industry, we have an incredible amount of data and expertise on all aspects of cotton.