orgagnic cotton

Cotton is the most widely used natural-fiber cloth in clothing today. It accounts for almost 50% of the textile market worldwide. It is used to make a number of textile products. These include bath towels and robes, denim, shirts, Socks, underwear, T-shirts, Bed sheets etc. However, Cotton is one of agriculture's most water-intensive and pest sensitive crops.

Cotton is sadly one of the most chemically intensive among all field crops. Cotton is grown on an estimated 3% of the total cultivated area in the world, but uses about 25% of all insecticides consumed in agriculture. Pests are such a serious threat to cotton production that economic yields are almost impossible to achieve without monitoring pests and adopting chemical controls. Plant protection operations have become the crucial aspect of production practices and pesticides that are banned for use on food crops are commonly used on cotton. In many countries, especially where cotton is machine picked, herbicides, insecticides, growth regulators and harvest aid chemicals in addition to fertilizers are integral parts of production practices. Even after harvesting, cotton fabric at textile mills is treated with a variety of chemicals for improving appearance and performance. Cotton fabrics are often processed with toxic dyes and formaldehydes before they reach end users.

The good news there is an alternative known as organic cotton. Organic cotton production is a system of growing cotton without synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, conventional synthetic insecticides, growth regulators, growth stimulators, boll openers or defoliants. It is a system that contributes to healthy soils and/or people. The organic system promotes enhanced biological activity, encourages sustainability and commands proactive management of production. Organic cotton has social and environmental benefits that include:

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 and processed without toxic chemicals that can be absorbed easily when in contact with the user's skin. Pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals used to grow and process conventional cotton fabrics may go directly to the users blood stream, which consequently affect's the body's organs and tissues. Organic cotton production is not simply an elimination of fertilizers and insecticides but it is a complete production system which requires equally sound knowledge of cotton production practices. With respect to insect control in particular, a thorough knowledge of non-chemical means of insect control is a pre-requisite for organic production. Use of chemicals in the form of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, growth regulators, defoliants and desiccants has increased the cost of production to the extent that cotton is losing its profitability against other field crops. Environmental concerns are also increasing. Organic cotton production provides an alternative to grow cotton without chemicals. Organic cotton production requires careful planning so as to realize optimum yield. It includes a number of factors like site selection, crop rotations, variety, weed control, non-chemical means of insect control and skill to manage organic crop. Similarly, there is a need to perfect the agronomic requirements of a crop to be grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Besides the naturally soft organic cotton fabric is a lot more comfortable to use and is available at competitive prices.

Some Facts:

Reasons for Organic Cotton Production

Organic Cotton production is also a consumer driven initiative. There are many harmful chemicals that people do not know about. Twelve of these chemicals are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), they are the most hazardous of all man-made products or that have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment. They are so dangerous that over 100 nations agreed at a United Nations Environment conference to outlaw them. There are many of those chemicals used in cotton manufacturing.

The following are the main factors responsible for organic cotton production:

Globally, nearly 90 million acres of cotton are grown in more than 70 countries. It is estimated that little over 8,000 hectares of organic cotton are grown in various countries. Organic cotton is also said to be produced in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, India, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, Turkey and Uganda.

The main use of organic cotton is for the following textile products:

  • Towels
  • Bathrobes
  • Denim
  • Bed sheets
  • Napkins
  • Diapers

Difference between organic and conventional cotton:

The difference between organic and non-organic grown cotton is mainly in the farming methods used. Below comparison chart shows us the difference between organic cotton and conventional cotton farming from seed preparation to finishing for textile applications.

seed preparation

Conventional Organic
  • Typically treats seeds with with fungicides or insecticides
  • Uses untreated seeds
  • Uses GMO seeds for approximately 70% of US grown cotton
  • Never uses GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds
  • soil water

    Conventional Organic
  • Apply synthetic fertilizers
  • Builds strong soil through crop rotation
  • Requires intensive irrigation
  • Retains water efficiently
  • weed control

    Conventional Organic
  • Applies highly toxic herbicides to kill weeds
  • Physical removal instead of chemical methods
  • pest control

    Conventional Organic
  • Uses highly toxic pesticides
  • Uses beneficial insects, biological and cultural
  • Uses Insecticides accounting for approximately 25% of world consumption
  • Maintains a balance between pests and their natural
  • harvesting

    Conventional Organic
  • Defoliates with toxic chemicals
  • Relies mostly on the seasonal freeze for defoliation
  • production

    Conventional Organic
  • Warp fibers stabilized using toxic waxes
  • Warp fibers stabilized using double-plying or nontoxic cornstarch
  • whitening

    Conventional Organic
  • Chlorine bleaching creates toxic byproducts released into the environment
  • Relies mostly on the seasonal freeze for defoliation
  • finishing

    Conventional Organic
  • Hot water, synthetic surfactants, additional chemicals which can include formaldehyde
  • Soft scour in warm water with soda ash, for a pH of 7.5- 8
  • trade industry

    Conventional Organic
  • No social screening with possible forced or child labor used. Facilities maybe unsafe and unhealthy
  • Criteria in place to promote safe, healthy, non-abusive, living wages and environmental friendly

  • ORGANIC COTTON - Market Potential Global Production of Organic Cotton

    In 1998, Nike, one of the largest sports clothing lines in the world, decided to incorporate organic practices. Most of their products contain 3-5% organic fibers and they also offer a 100% organic line. Although 3-5% may seem insignificant, in the scheme of things (and in the volume that Nike is producing) the numbers are quite large. Nike alone uses nearly three-million pounds of organic cotton per year! And other large companies such as Patagonia, Timberland, and Orvis also incorporate organic fibers into their clothing lines; without public support these companies would not be successful.

    Organic cotton came about from the concern for a life devoid of the use of extremely harmful toxic chemicals, the need for an eco-friendly industrial and agricultural culture and an increasing awareness of depleting natural resources and the consequences therein-these are factors which are shaping the life styles of people worldwide. It is in this context that the relevance of organic cotton becomes important. Organic cotton is not only better for our bodies but better for our environment. It makes a world of difference in the health and comfort of humans around the world, especially those with allergies, asthma, or multiple chemical sensitivities. Infants can enjoy the purest softness, comfort and strength of cotton while diminishing the harm to our environment because what is toxic to you is 15 times more toxic to a baby. Not only do these synthetic pesticides pollute our air, water and soil, but they jeopardize our future. The conventional cotton farming takes an astonishing amount of the responsibility for contaminating our planet by using a full quarter of the pesticides worldwide.