Regrettably, production agriculture in the United States has to defend itself constantly against false pseudo-science claims.
Accordingly, the Oklahoma Cotton Council, in cooperation with the Cotton, Incorporated Cotton Board, will publish from time to time myths about U.S. cotton production.
Myth: Toxins left on cotton products could be harmful to one's health. In the United States, cotton is regulated as a food crop by the Food and Drug Administration and receives the same regulatory scrutiny as fruits and vegetables. Cotton hulls and seed are food sources: seeds for their high quality frying oil and hulls for animal feed.
The Environmental Protection Agency has stringent regulations on the use of crop protection chemicals during food crop protection and cotton is held to the same safety standards as any other regulated food crop. The world renowned Bremen Cotton Exchange oversees tests on raw cotton samples grown in 16 countries around the world for more than 200 toxic substances, including heavy metals and pesticides. All of the test series confirm the treatment and use of pesticides in U.S. cotton production does not pose any hazard for the processor of raw material and none at all for the end consumer. The increased use of genetically-modified seed will mean current levels of pesticide use should further decline. Nevertheless, the test series will continue.
Myth: Cotton uses too much water and is a water intensive crop to grow.
In reality, cotton is a highly drought-resistant crop and likes hot, dry climates which makes it one crop that can be grown in places where other crops cannot. In fact, cotton's global water footprint is only about 2.6 percent of the world's agricultural water use, lower than that of many other commodities and proportional to cotton's land use of three percent of all cropland worldwide.
Most U.S. cotton is not irrigated. Only 11 percent is fully irrigated, with the remaining 64 percent receiving no irrigation at all. Today, improved production practices mean growing a pound of cotton in the United States takes half as much irrigation water compared to 25 years ago. And, to be more efficient, 81 percent of U.S. cotton production irrigation has been upgraded in the last 10 years.
TALKIN' COTTON is a cotton industry partnership which supports and encourages increased cotton production in the Rolling Plains of North Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. For more information on the cotton scene, see ntokcotton.org and okiecotton.org. For comments and questions on Talkin' Cotton, contact.