What is cottonseed oil used for?


From jeans to explosives - using the cotton plant

The cotton bush provides the raw material for countless textile products from shirts to towels. In clothing in particular, there is hardly a purpose for which cotton is not suitable. In medicine, it is valued for its resistance to cooking. And in the living room it is in the bed linen and candle wick, in the tablecloth or in the curtain. But the cotton plant gives off much more than just fabric fibers. The writer Erik Orsenna even referred to them as the "domestic pig of botany" because of their versatility.

The fiber wax of cotton is processed into preservatives, lubricants or lubricants or used as a basis for cream and soap. The seeds do not end up in the waste either; a high-quality vegetable oil is pressed from them. Because the seeds contain the slightly toxic gossypol, the oil must be refined before it can be offered for consumption. So it could be edible if it weren't for the exposure to pesticide residue. Cotton seed oil from conventional cultivation is actually not suitable as a food because of the chemicals it contains. In poor countries without consumer protection, however, it still ends up in the grocery trade, for example as margarine. Cottonseed oil is also often used for technical purposes.

The small seeds have even more to offer than the oil. They are real protein packages with 23 percent protein and partly the basis for protein supplements. In some regions of the cotton belt there is a lack of protein-rich food and the press residues of the cotton seeds could make an important contribution to a more complete diet there. But the poisonous gossypol is also in the crushed seeds. That is why the press residues and with them the valuable protein often end up as fodder for ruminants. Researchers have the cottonseed in their sights because of their protein content. They want to develop a genetically modified cotton plant whose seeds no longer contain the gossypol and which can then be eaten without processing.

The short-haired seed fluff (linters) is combed out of the raw cotton because it is not suitable for further processing into fabrics. Because of their high cellulose content, the linters are usually made into very tear-resistant paper, which is what the euro banknotes, for example, are made of. The food industry processes them into additives such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, thickeners or fillers. The so-called gun cotton, a cellulose-based explosive, can also be made from the linters.