Organic Cotton Facts


Land is ultimately the most precious resource we have-  Altfrid Krusenbaum, WI


Simple definition of organic: grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals, related to or obtained from living things. Having characteristics of an organism, developing in the manner of a living plant or animal

Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.

 According to the 2011 Textile Exchange Organic Cotton Farm & Fiber Report, approximately 151,079 metric tons (MT) of organic cotton (693,900 bales) were grown on 324,577 hectares (802,047 acres) in 2010-2011. Organic cotton now equals 0.7 percent of global cotton production. Organic cotton was grown in 20 countries worldwide in 2010-11 led by India and including (in order of rank): Syria, China, Turkey, United States, Tanzania, Egypt, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Pakistan, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Paraguay, Israel, Tajikistan, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Senegal. Approximately 219,000 farmers grew the fiber.

According to a report by Textile Exchange, 2010 Global Market Report on Sustainable Textiles, global sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products reached an estimated $5.16 billion in 2010. This reflects a 20 percent increase from the 2009 market. Companies reported significant growth in their organic cotton programs, and increased adoption of standards addressing product traceability and sustainable textile processing.

In fact, companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Organic Exchange (OE) Blended or OE 100 standard, tracing the organic fiber from the field to finished product. Many manufacturers have also become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which addresses textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.

 U.S. organic cotton production continues to increase, encouraged by consumer and corporate demand, price premiums, and regulatory shifts that facilitate clear labeling for organic cotton products.

According to an OTA (Organic Textile Association) survey of U.S. organic cotton production, undertaken with funding from Cotton Incorporated, the number of acres planted with organic cotton in the U.S. increased 36 percent from 2009-2010 while bales harvested were up nearly 24 percent. U.S. producers harvested 11,262 acres of organic cotton in 2010, representing 95 percent of planted acres, and yielding 13,279 bales.

Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton. For a current list of OTA members with products containing organic fiber, visit The Organic Pages Online™ at OTA website.

As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs, ear swabs), to fabrics, home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding, beds), children’s products (toys, diapers), and clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace). In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.

In 2011, organic fiber sales in the United States grew by 17.1 percent over the previous year, to reach $708 million, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 Organic Industry Survey. The future looks promising, with organic fiber products appearing in more mainstream outlets, led by large and small U.S. textile retailers alike.

Unlike food, textile products don’t have to be certified in order to be described as organic. A product claiming to be organic might only contain a small percentage of organic cotton or may be made of organic cotton but dyed using toxic chemicals which would never be allowed in certified organic products.

In order to be sure a product really is organic from field to finished product, look out for below symbols:

 

GOTS symbol: Product grown and processed to organic standards. Products carrying the GOTS symbol are made from organic fibers, have met strict environmental and social criteria during processing and have been certified by an independent, third party along the whole supply chain.
Find out more about GOTS…

  Soil Association symbol: Product certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard by Soil Association Certification Ltd. The Soil Association was a founder member of GOTS and is a quarter owner of Global Standard GmbH which manages the GOTS.
Find out more about the Soil Association…
 

OE100 symbol: Cotton in the product grown to organic standards. Product has been tracked and traced along the supply chain by an independent, third party. Contains 100% certified organic cotton fiber, but hasn’t necessarily been processed to organic standards.

  OE blended symbol: Product contains a minimum 5% of organic cotton fiber.

Organic cotton clothing will cause fewer allergies, reduced respiratory problems (no sneezing in the closets is a sign of improvement). There might not be strong scientific proofs to back up these facts. But if you consult doctors or dieticians or even your grandmother, they will always recommend organic food. Well, that’s true for clothes too. We don’t eat our clothes but our skin absorbs and inhales chemicals sitting on the clothes. Like a patch of medicine applied on skin. 

Resources:

http://www.cottonedon.org
https://ota.com
Killer Clothes written by Anna Maria Clement, PhD, NMD, LN and Brian R. Clement, PhD, NMD, LN

http://www.digipac.ca/chemical/mtom/contents/chapter3/fritzhaber_3.htm

Image courtesy: organicfacts.net

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