Cotton isn’t exactly the first thing to come to mind if you are asked to list crops that go farm-to-plate. That may be in the process of changing for more people this month as the FDA approved a ultra low gossypol cottonseed for human and animal consumption. The research on this has been undergoing at Texas A&M led by researcher Dr. Keerti Rathore. I met Dr. Rathore long ago and even wrote about the promise of reduced gossypol cottonseed a year ago when the USDA approved the product for farming.
This brings a few things to mind for me that I would guess are pretty uncommon.
What is gossypol?
Gossypol is a naturally occuring chemical for cotton plants — it’s in the plant’s leaves, stems, seeds, etc. It helps protect the plant from some of the insect pests that love to damage the plant. I am always amazed by the ways nature is cool, but you have to admit that is cool. The bummer is though, that gossypol can be toxic to some animals and to people.
Why feed cottonseed to animals & people?
This one is hard to look at from the place where a lot of us sit. We have a multitude of foods available if you were lucky enough to be born in the developed world. And farmers have lots of choices in livestock feeds that keep those of us who eat meat satisfied.
That isn’t the case in many parts of the developing world. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of people who live on cotton farms in the developing world. These farms are frequently subsistence farms and while they may have vegetable gardens and/or grain, the addition of another food source for the family and/or livestock, could be life-saving or life-changing. I am not overstating to say it could be a total god-send for people who have a goat, a couple of chickens, etc.
Would I eat cottonseed?
I am firmly in the “I’d eat it” camp. In fact, I recently fixed myself avocado toast (thanks to visiting an avocado farm) and mixed a little bit of the cilantro-flavored cottonseed oil in with the avocado. But realistically, I know I have so many food choices, that I probably wouldn’t end up eating it directly. I think it could probably be useful in producing some of the meats I eat though.