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Cotton Incorporated Strikes Back

From Cotton Grower Magazine – June/July 2016

 

Around Thanksgiving last year, someone texted me a screenshot of a lengthy screed on Facebook purportedly posted by someone called “Organic Olivia.”

In it, the author declared that mutated mold was growing on the genetically modified cotton used in feminine hygiene products. Further, she wrote, most tampon brands use “Monsanto-sprayed” cotton that is “sprayed when the bud is open and so the glyphosate is condensed and goes straight onto the product.”

I don’t normally use this column to conjure up such unpleasant ideas. It’s just that when you’re the editor for Cotton Grower magazine, you sometimes become a receptacle for all the nonsense dialogue that surrounds cotton production and agriculture in general. My friend had sent the screenshot with an implied “Get a load of this!” My response was carefully crafted: “LOL what!?”

Unfortunately, there are a lot of Organic Olivias out there. In this era of politicized science and politicized media, there is no shortage of bloggers or so-called influencers who are prepared to evangelize on behalf of absurd causes. Demonizing modern agriculture is one such cause.

And some of these personalities have a sizable platform from which to broadcast their junk science. This is how I came to find out about someone called the Food Babe when, in late May, her saber rattling about cottonseed oil as a food product caught the attention of the good folks over at Cotton Incorporated.

In a lengthy, meandering blog post, the Food Babe took aim at virtually every aspect of cotton production and usage before urging her readers to contact the many food brands who use cottonseed oil and ask them to stop. Mercifully, Cotton Incorporated issued a swift, reasoned response. They employed a degree of patience and restraint that is truly admirable. With that said, it was utterly satisfying to see the cold hand of science-based facts come down on the Food Babe’s hyperbole.

Among Cotton Incorporated’s more salient points:

  • In the U.S. producers have reduced pesticide use by over 50% in the past 30 years.
  • Cotton uses just 3% of the world’s agricultural water (while providing fiber, food, feed and other materials each harvest).
  • The American Heart Association classifies cottonseed oil as “heart healthy” when used in appropriate amounts.

Mainstream media outlets caught wind of Cotton Incorporated’s epic response. I was particularly fond of the headline Forbes.com gave to their story on the matter: The Food Babe is a Bully and Cotton Incorporated Isn’t Going to Take It.

The entire episode once again demonstrated the value of Cotton Incorporated. When bullies come after our industry, who is better equipped to stare them down than Cotton Incorporated? They are public facing, they have the ear of the audience, and they have the research at their disposal.

On a broader level, Cotton Incorporated provided an excellent example of how to handle agriculture’s detractors. When presented with quack science and bully tactics, being dismissive does not help the matter. “LOL what!?” is useless.

We should all do like Cotton Incorporated. Keep a level head, maintain a respectful tone, and hit them with the facts.

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