Summary of Crop composition Cotton

Nutritional and natural toxicology of African Crops

Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L)

Cotton is a plant commonly grown for its fibre for the textile industry, its seeds for animal feeds, and oil for human consumption (Panley, 1998; OECD, 2004; O’Brien et al, 2005; Adelola and Ndudi, 2012). The cotton species commonly found in Africa is Gossypium hirsutum.

The main nutritional components of cottonseed are lipids and proteins. The major amino acid is arginine and the predominant fatty acids are linoleic acid and palmitic acid with a low level of linolenic acid (Panley, 1998; Agarwal, 2003; OECD, 2004). Cottonseed oil is also rich in the vitamin E compounds such as alpha- and beta-tocopherol, but low in gamma-tocopherol (Agarwal, 2003). Cottonseed’s major mineral is potassium (Mujahid et al., 1999).

Cottonseed and whole cotton plants also can contain bound gossypol and free gossypol in two enantiomeric (+) and (-) forms, which are toxic to humans and animals. However, (-) – gossypol is more biologically active than its (+) – gossypol (EFSA, 2008). The free (-)-gossypol has a moderate acute toxicity by involving sperm depression when exposed to low repeated doses. The free (-)-gossypol could also has a negative effect on the female reproductive organs and the development of the embryo (EFSA, 2008). The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of free gossypol has not been determined, however, an oral dose of 0.1 or 0.35 mg/kgbody weight, is capable of inhibiting spermatogenesis in men and monkeys respectively. The LD50 (50% lethal dose) ranged from 280-300mg/kg body weight for guinea pigs, 350-600 mg/kg body weight for rabbits to 500-950 mg/kg body weight for mice (EFSA, 2008).

The range of free gossypol is between 0.69 and 1.1% dry weight in cottonseed but this range is not yet determined in refined cottonseed oil, however the level of total gossypol within refined cottonseed oil is ranged from 0,.00 to 0,.09% dry weight (Monsanto, 2000; Berberich et al. , 1996). It is possible to reduce the level of gossypol by removing fiber or by the process of oil extraction with a solvent (EFSA, 2008) and by genetic engineering using the technology of RNAi (Sunilkumar et al., 2006).

There is no clear safety limit for either free (-) – gossypol (for humans) or the exposure that might arise from the consumption of animal products due to gossypol in animal feeds. According to the European Food Safety Authority, human exposure to gossypol by the consumption of food products from animals fed cottonseeds or derived products would not cause major adverse effects (EFSA, 2008).

According to the OECD consensus document (2004), nutritional and compositional analysis on cottonseed and oil should be focused on proximate analyses (protein, fat, total dietary fibre, carbohydrate and moisture), tocopherol (vitamin E), fatty acids, gossypol (total and free), malvalic acid, sterculic acid and dihydrosterculic acid. For the summary, see Table below.


Table: Summary for cotton

Key considerations

Food characteristic

1. What is the most important species of cotton used as food?

Gossypium hirsutum7

2. What are the edible parts?

Cottonseeds10. Primarily used for animal feed

3. What are foods derived cottonseeds?

Oil (human food), cotton seedcake and meal (animal feeds)7,8

4. What are the major macronutrients of cottonseeds?

Protein and lipids8

5. What is the major vitamin (seeds)?

Rich in vitamin E as well as β- tocopherol and α-tocopherol, but poor in γ-tocopherol.2

6. What is the major inherent toxic substance?

Free gossypol2

7. What kind of toxicity?

Moderate acute toxicity4. Reproductive toxicity with repeated exposure

8. What are their main adverse effects?

Diminution of sperm mobility, inhibition of spermatogenesis, depression of sperm, suppression spermatogenesis, disruption of the estrus cycle, pregnancy and early embryo4.

9. What is the major route of exposure?

Oral (by feeding)7

10. What is the range of free gossypol in cottonseeds?

Cottonseed free gossypol is ranges between 0.69 – 1.11 %4.

11. What is the range of free gossypol in cottonseeds oil?

Not determined4

12. Is it possible to decrease the free gossypol level in food-derived cottonseed?

Yes: by removing the fibers, decorticating seeds, oil extraction using solvents8 and genetic engineering4.

13. What is the Acceptable Dose Intake of free gossypol?

 Not determined4

14. What is the lowest doses of free (-)-gossypol that can inhibit spermatogenesis?

0.1mg/kg body weight for human and 0.35 mg/kg body weight for monkey4

15. What is human exposure to free gossypol?

16. What is the percentage of gossypol transferred from feed or animal to human?

 Not determined4.

Not determined, but believed to be low for animals fed cottonseeds or for humans eating derived foods4.

17. What is the safety limit of gossypol in food?

None established. For animal feed, it must be less than the half-maximal concentration permitted in both cottonseed meals and feeding stuffs 4.

18. Is it food derived from cotton known to be allergenic?

No known allergy


1Adelola O.B and Ndudi E.A., 2012.Extraction and characterization of cottonseed oil. International Journal of Basic and Applied Science; 01 (02): 398-402

2Agarwal D.K, Singh P, Chakrabarty M, Shaikh A.J, Gayal S.G., 2003.Cottonseed oil quality, utilization and processing. CICR Technical Bulletin NO: 25.

3 Berberich S.A, Ream J.E, Jackson T.L, Wood R, Stipanovic R, Harvey P, Patzer S and Fuchs R., 1996. The composition of insect-protected cottonseed is equivalent to that of conventional cottonseed. J. Agric. Food Chem ; 44 (1): 365-371.

4 EFSA, 2008.Scientific opinion of the panel on contaminants in the food chain on a request from the European Commission on gossypol as undesirable substance in animal feed. The EFSA Journal; 908: 1-56.

5Monsanto, 2000. Safety, Compositional, and nutritional aspects of Bolgard II Cotton Event 15985.U.S. FDA/CFSAN.BNF 74.

6Mujahid A, Abdullah M, Barque A.R and Gilani A.H.,1999. Nutritional value of cottonseeds and its derived products: I .Physical fractionations and proximate composition. Department of Animal Nutrition, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

7 O’Brien R.D, Lynn A, Jones C, King C, Wakelyn P.J and Wan P.J., 2005. Bailey’s industrial oil and fat products, Sixth edition, Six Volume Set. Edited by Fereidoon Shahidi. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

8 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2004 Consensus document on compositional consideration for new varieties of cotton (Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense): Key food and feed nutrients and anti-nutrients .Series on the Safety of Novel Foods and Feeds, No. 11.

9 Pandey S.N, 1998.Cottonseed and its utilization. Indian Council of Agricultural research, New Delhi, 212p.

10 Sunilkumar G, Campbell L.M, Puckhaber L, Stipanovic R.D and Rathore K.S., 2006.Engineering cottonseed for use in human nutrition by tissue-specific reduction of toxic gossypol. Proc. Natnl Acad. Sci USA; 103 (48): 18054–18059

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