Good Heavens, We’re All Eating Cotton!
Next time when you bite into that juicy burger or, for that matter, nibble on your cheese and crackers as you sip your favorite wine, consider for a moment that you’re also eating a bit of cotton! Yes, cotton, that same stuff your sheets and clothes are made of. You’re also eating cotton when you savor a host of other favorite foods as well. Now, how’s that possible? Well, here’s the bad news. Around 65% of traditionally produced cotton actually gets inevitably mixed with what we eat daily by way of edible oil, meat, and milk of animals that feed on cotton gin by-products and cotton seed. The actual hazard of traditional cotton emanates from by-products of cotton and GMO that owe their existence to cotton products of the non-food category.
How Did it Get there?
Also known as Gin Trash, these by-products commonly comprise cotton stalk, seed, burrs, leaves, dirt, and twigs. This is sold to food companies for processing to generate cotton seed oil, fillers, and additives used widely in processed foods, soil compost mixes, and livestock feed. What’s more, all waste that comes from the processing also mixes directly with our regular drinking water supply. So in a way, we’re drinking cotton, too!
It Gets Worse
In fact, a large portion of the global population is eating some sort of cotton seed oil without even knowing it. Edible Vitamin E is extracted from cotton. Cottonseed-based fodder is regularly fed to poultry and cattle for production of milk, dairy products, and meat. Cellulose fibers of leftover cotton are used as regular food additives to either stabilize or thicken foods and to manufacture the so-called “healthy,” low-calorie- high-fiber edibles that keep flying off the shelves, thanks to some aggressive marketing by their manufacturers.
Cellulose, which falls under the category of plastics, finds a wide presence in cheeses, milk powder, cream, ice creams, flavored milk, processed fruits, whey products, canned beans and pre-cooked pasta, to name few. There’s of course, a host of other items that we use daily and which contain cellulose in size-able measures. This speaks volumes of the fact that health wise we are indeed walking on the edge. And traditionally grown cotton is largely responsible for it.
Cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops. The cultivation is totally pesticide-based. Aldicarb, for instance, is one such pesticide that is widely used in cotton cultivation and is acutely poisonous to both wildlife and humans. In fact, it’s rumored that a single drop of Aldicarb can kill a full grown man! Nevertheless, this deadly chemical continues to be used widely in more than 25 countries and mixes with their groundwater. And we have to wait till 2018 when it’s supposedly going to be phased out!
The Savior: Organic Farming
The situation has come to a point where the awareness and use of organically owned cotton is critical. This calls for the law makers to curb or even ban the cultivation of cotton through conventional methods and to enforce the implementation of organic methods to combat this growing problem. Doing so will reduce the production of contaminated everyday edibles to a large extent and lead to the production of healthy, organic foods. How is that possible?
Organic farming is all about working with nature for achieving a proper ecological balance without the use of hazardous chemicals or genetic modification. Its hallmarks are intercropping processes and use of natural predators to eliminate pests and weeds. The most notable features of organic farming are the application of natural fertilizers like animal manures and composts; recycling of soil nitrogen; and reducing or even eliminating N2O emissions. Furthermore, regular crop rotation and use of natural fertilizers keep the soil health and its water retention capacity intact while also preventing unwanted soil erosion.
A Legislative Approach or Awareness?
Organic standards and regulations are based on some very stringent guidelines that guarantee protection against health hazards and also preserves the planet’s natural eco-system. This calls for creating a worldwide awareness about the dangers of conventionally grown “natural cotton,” thought to be an eco-friendly and safe crop so far. However, this is a long drawn process, and the outcome depends entirely on a political process to play out.
So next time, when you buy clothing, diapers, underwear, bed linens, and towels or anything that’s even remotely connected to cotton, think again. The much-flaunted concept of “All Natural” is more often than not a myth. These items are often neither chemical or GMO-free Cotton textile processing is relies heavily on the use of highly hazardous and toxic chemicals. Remember, any cotton textile or natural foods that aren’t certified to be GMO- free or organic by the USDA is suspect. So make sure that they have the USDA or GOTS (Global Organic Textiles) seal before you buy them.
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