Cotton is thought to be a very natural fabric, however, conventional cotton-growing is one of the most chemically intensive farming operations in the world.
Since cotton is one of the most widely-traded commodities (nearly half of all textile products produced), conventional cotton-growing leads to massive environmental and health problems. Environmental research has shown that the extensive and intensive use of synthetic fertilizers, soil additives, defoliants and other substances used to produce conventional cotton wreaks serious havoc on soil, water, and air.
Chemicals drift into neighboring communities, posing long-term health threats to people and animals. They also indirectly enter the human food chain through cottonseed in livestock feed, contaminating meat and dairy products. (Cottonseed oil is also used in many processed food products.)
The problems with cotton production do not stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into fabric, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage — silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, brighteners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia and formaldehyde.
Why organic cotton?
Here are some reasons why organic cotton production is important to the long-term health of the planet:
- Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world?s insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants.). (Allan Woodburn)
- It takes roughly one-third of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just one yard of fabric.
- The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin). (EPA)
What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. “Working with, not against” nature is the principle behind organic farming.
Grown without pesticides and spun without chemicals, organic farmers rely on organic fertilizers, manual crop rotation and integrated pest management. Fields are naturally fertilized, pest-eating insects are used to naturally control crop damage, and weeds are removed with hoes and tractors, as well as manually. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Farms earn the organic label by using soil that has been free of synthetic pesticides for at least three consecutive years.
Grown and processed without toxic chemicals, organic cotton is free from synthetic poisons that could be absorbed into the bloodstream by contact with the user?s skin. All of our organic cotton products are also free of irritating or damaging colors and dyes.
Additionally, on chemical-use cotton farms, farmers are constantly exposed to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, endangering them and their families. In developing countries, poor, untrained and ill-equipped farmers are often forced to deal with the most hazardous of chemical agricultural agents.
- Organic farms are chemical fertilizer- and pesticide-free, keeping their soil and water protected and usable for longer periods of time.
- Organic cotton fabrics last longer due to its natural composition. The cotton that is grown in conventional ways is compromised and weakened by the chemicals used in growing, processing and dying of the cotton, all these things break the fiber down and create a weaker, inferior cotton fabric.
- Organic cotton is softer, thicker cotton that is sturdier than thinner conventional cotton that gets worn much quicker from use and washing.
How much organic cotton is grown globally?
In 2000-01, international production was approximately 6,368 metric tons (slightly more than 14 million pounds, or 29,248 bales), grown in 12 countries, according to data from the Pesticide Action Network of the United Kingdom and from the Organic Trade Association (OTA). This represents about 0.03% of worldwide cotton production.
Turkey and the United States were the leading producers of organic cotton, followed by India, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Senegal, Israel, Greece, Benin and Brazil.
Organic cotton is good for the environment, good for farmers and good for you.
What does “Certified Organic” really mean?
“Certified Organic” means the cotton has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or private organizations.
Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.
Certification of organic cotton production adds credibility to the final product assures the buyer of the organic status of the product and encourages payment of premium prices to farmers who engage in organic practices.