The Dark Side of Cotton: Pesticide-Laden Cottonseed in Your Food?

We all wear cotton. But did you know you probably eat it too? Cottonseed oil?extracted from the same cotton plant grown for the fiber used in clothes?is prevalent in fried and processed foods. In just a quick walk down the grocery aisle, EN found it in chips, cookies and other baked goods. Moreover, cottonseed and cotton byproducts are commonly fed to cattle and dairy cows.

 

Risky Business. So, what’s the problem? Cotton is one of the most intensively sprayed crops worldwide. In fact, according to the Pesticide Action Network in San Francisco, more than 10% of all pesticide use is on cotton. And the chemicals used are among the most toxic, with many classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as ?possible,? ?likely,? ?probable? or ?known? human carcinogens.

   Contaminated drinking water from pesticide runoff is just one of the potential environmental problems of conventional cotton production. Pesticide residues that may remain on cottonseeds after harvest is another cause for concern, says Sandra Marquardt, coordinator of the Organic Trade Association’s Fiber Council. But how much remains is hard to determine, as cottonseed oil is not routinely tested.

   However, according to Marquardt, government analysis has found a number of chemicals in cottonseed and cotton byproducts. The chemicals included methyl parathion, an acutely toxic pesticide linked to reproductive and immune system damage in animals.

 

What to Do. Though we don’t yet know how much of a problem pesticide residues are?either in cottonseed oil or in the livestock that eat the seed and byproducts?it’s prudent to limit consumption, because of heavy spraying.

Here’s what EN suggests you do, ideally, for both a healthier body and a healthier environment:

?  Eat fewer processed foods, the main source of cottonseed oil.  

?  Read labels and choose foods without cottonseed oil in the ingredient list.

?  Choose foods made with organic cottonseed oil.

?  Buy organic meat and dairy foods, which are raised on organic feed, including organic cottonseed.

?  For far-reaching effects, buy clothing, bedding, towels and personal care items made from organic cotton. The more organic cotton grown, the cleaner the environment and the more organic cottonseed byproducts there are for use in food and in animal feed.–Andrea Klausner, M.S., R.D.

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