“Organic farming appealed to me because it involved searching for and discovering nature’s pathways, as opposed to the formulaic approach of chemical farming. The appeal of organic farming is boundless; this mountain has no top, this river has no end.” – Eliot Coleman, The New Organic Grower
Why Organic Cotton?
Cotton is one of the most toxic crops on the planet. Its toxicity is perhaps one of the most surprising findings you’ll discover when researching the conventional cotton industry.
While making up less than 2.5 percent of global cropland, non-organic cotton receives 16 to 25 percent of all insecticides, 10 percent of all pesticides and nearly 7 percent of all herbicides used worldwide, many of which are among the most hazardous.
90 to 95 percent of non-organic cotton clothing is made from genetically engineered cotton. Organic cotton accounts for a mere less than 2% percent of the global cotton production.
Buying non-organic cotton, you expose yourself to potentially heavy doses of toxins, contribute to ever-worsening environmental destruction and enable human rights violations. Martin Fox, Ph.D. author of Healthy Water for Longer Life describes that we absorb more through our skin than through ingesting. In a 15-minute bath, the average adult absorbs 63% of the elements in the water. Drinking 2 liters of water, the absorption rate of elements is only 27%.
Herbicide-resistant GE cotton is typically sprayed with copious amounts of Roundup, the active ingredient in which is glyphosate, a likely human carcinogen.
The 2002 introduction of Bt cotton, which is genetically engineered to produce its own internal pesticide, was supposed to lead to a reduction in the use of insecticides. In reality, Bt cotton requires more pesticide sprayings than indigenous cotton, as it has created new chemical-resistant pests.
To control these resistant pests, farmers now use 13 times more pesticides than they were using prior to the introduction of Bt cotton.
While you cannot eat cotton per se, 65 percent of conventional cotton production still ends up in the food chain, through:
- Cottonseed oil, a primary ingredient in Crisco cooking oil and vitamin E supplements
- Cottonseed meal, added to dairy cow and beef cattle feed
- Cotton cellulose, used as a non-caloric filler, thickener and stabilizer in a wide range of processed foods and beverages
The toxic pesticides sprayed on conventional cotton crops also threaten the health of, and contaminate, other food crops.
By choosing organic cotton made clothes, consumer will:
- Choose to support the farmers and protect the environment
- Give control to farmers not GM companies:
Organic cotton production never uses GM seed. The small-scale farmers who produce most of our cotton need reliability, not high risks. Using low external inputs that are locally available, organic allows farmers to work within their limits and with their environment, in a sustainable way. Organic cotton puts choices in the farmer’s hands.
- Help eliminate hazardous synthetic pesticides:
Up to 77 million cotton workers suffer from poisoning from pesticides each year. Organic cotton doesn’t use dangerous pesticides, protecting farmers’ lives and the environment. As organic cotton farmers around the world demonstrate every day, cotton can be grown without pesticides. By eliminating all hazardous synthetic pesticides in its production organic cotton offers a healthy and sustainable farming future for farmers and their families. Organic takes the toxic impact out of producing cotton.
- Help farmers feed their families
Organic cotton enables farmers to grow other crops for food and income. Organic farmers grow a diversity of crops to maintain healthy and fertile soils and fight off pests. By diversifying crops, farmers can also diversify their income. Growing food or other crops helps insure organic farmers against crop failure, climate variability, price volatility and changes in market demand.
- Help save precious water-Organic practices keep soil healthy so they are better at holding water and more resilient to drought conditions
Organic cotton uses less water, preserving a scarce and precious resource for the future. Organic farming practices create healthy soils which make better use of water inputs and are more resilient in drought conditions. By eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, organic cotton keeps waterways and drinking water safe and clean. The water pollution impact of organic has been shown to be 98% less than non-organic cotton production.
- Help Combat climate change
Organic cotton farming uses less energy and healthy organic soils store more carbon. Organic cotton farmers are doing their bit to combat climate change. By eliminating the use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides and reducing nitrogen inputs, organic cotton growing produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions. By maintaining their health, organic practices turn soils into a carbon ‘sink’, removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
- Organic cotton clothing is made to last.
Organic cotton clothes are recyclable, comfortable to wear, softer, great Insulators, good for sensitive skin, renewable resource, biodegradable, carbon neutral, healthy and safe on skin. Studies show that Organic Cotton causes fewer allergic reactions than conventional. Organic cotton apparel also reduces respiratory problems and smells pleasant.
According to OTA, in 2015, organic products had a record breaking $43.3 billion sales in the US, 14 percent rise from 2014. Non-food products have grown to 13 percent of the total organic market, with organic fiber sales leading the charge at $1.3 billion in 2015, up almost 17 percent from 2014. Major clothing retail chains and brands have started incorporating organic cotton in their apparel lines. Organic consumers are paying between 20-80% price premiums in their quest for a healthier and environmentally responsible lifestyle. Demand is continuing to grow as consumers seek responsible choices and become aware of the troubling issues with the conventional cotton industry.
If we want to handover a healthy planet to our next generation then we must make better choices. Small steps at consumers ends like buying organic cotton, hemp, silk, wool and bamboo fabrics. While such items typically cost more than non-organic cotton and synthetics, buying fewer items will allow you to spend more on each item. On the upside, higher quality organic items tend to last far longer with proper care, so you get your money’s worth in the end.
Rodale Institute February 4, 2014
Voltairenet.org May 23, 2009
EPA.gov EPA’s Regulation of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Crops