Why should we choose organic cotton? What is the difference between “normal cotton” and organic cotton? Cotton is one of the essential agricultural products with a long history of all humankind. Hence the name of “the fabric of our lives”.
According to Cotton Incorporated, the total amount of cotton produced worldwide from 2016 to 2017 April is 106 million 480-pound bales. China, India and the United States are the three largest world cotton producers. Cotton is mainly used in manufacturing clothes and it makes for soft, wearable fashion products. From jeans to t-shirts, or bedsheets to bathroom towels. Cotton cellulose can be used as food additives in food like cheese, baking items, ice-cream and added as fibre in processed food. Cottonseed hull is a great source to feed livestock. Cottonseed oil is also commonly found in cooking oil, salad dressing and margarine. Dried cottonseed meal can be used as a dry organic fertiliser as well. We can easily find parts of the plant in our daily life, even in our bodies.
So where does cotton come from?
Cotton farming has been known for more than thousands of years. The modern world now mostly conducts a regular conventional farming method to produce cotton. Global crop productions normally use treat seeds with fungicides or insecticides or genetically modified cotton seeds. (Those can be highly resistant to insect pest and/or tolerant herbicides that are used to remove weeds) Cotton is a water-intensive cash crop. It takes more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton (i.e. a single T-shirt and pair of jeans) and 73% of global cotton harvests comes from irrigated land. Also, substantial fertilisers and pesticides are used for conventional cotton production practice. 24% of insecticide and 11% pesticides are used for cotton farming globally. [Source: WWF]
However, high level of pollution across neighbouring wildlife and the whole community is caused by frequent use of aerial spraying; Water source and soil then becomes contaminated because of the heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Farm workers and millions of people in the area are risking their lives to survive. Health issues, like cancer and blindness, raises global concern. A large amount of water is used in cotton farming, land diverted to irrigate fields and intensive irrigation causes the loss of freshwater. The long history of mono-crop cultivation causes soil erosion and tragedies continuously occur.
[Photo: NASA Aral Sea 1989 to 2014] The Aral Sea, in Central Asia, used to be the fourth largest lake in the world, after the Caspian Sea, and Lakes Superior and Victoria. Now barely 10% of it is left......over time a large part of the 97.5 cubic kilometres of water carried annually by the Amu Darya on its 2,414-kilometre journey from the Pamir mountains became swallowed up by the Uzbek cotton fields...[Source: BBC]
To stop that, organic cotton is clearly a better and smarter choice.
Organic agriculture is new science and a new approach to preserving the environment and also it’s rather a better choice to sustain the production in a healthy and natural way. The attempt of farming, manufacturing and purchasing organic cotton is definitely a good start.
According to Organic Trade Association, Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, expand biologically diverse agriculture, and prohibit the use of synthetic toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilisers, as well as genetically engineered seed.
A report in 2014 done by Textile Exchange, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Organic Cotton analysis comparing organic cotton to conventional cotton production indicated that with organic cotton there is:
- 46% reduced global warming potential
- 70% less acidification potential
- 26% reduced eutrophication (soil erosion) potential
- 91% reduced blue water consumption
- 62% reduced primary energy demand. [Source: OTA]
Organic cotton farming helps to build stronger soil with better quality and mitigate climate change by locking CO2 into the soil and minimising the emission of greenhouse gases from fields. Less water usage for irrigation occurs as higher water capacity can be held in organic soil and organic cotton can hold up to 30-50% more moisture than non-organic cotton [Textile Exchange]. Reduced use of toxic chemicals and fertiliser for cotton farming gradually decreases the toxic level of all kinds of pollution and improves the health of farm workers, the community and natural wildlife.
You can help the environment a little more when you buy organic cotton products. Recognising those certificates issued by trustable organisations can help to identify where and how to find organic cotton products.
Global Organic Textile Standard [and Here]
GOTS is comprised of four reputed member organisations, namely OTA (USA), IVN (Germany), Soil Association (UK) and JOCA (Japan), which contribute to the GOTS, together with further international stakeholder organisations and experts, their respective expertise in organic farming and environmentally and socially responsible textile processing. The Standard provides for a subdivision into two label-grades. The only differentiation for subdivision is the minimum percentage of ‘organic’ / ‘organic – in conversion’ material in the certified product.
1. Products sold, labelled or represented as “organic” or “organic – in conversion”:
No less than 95% of the fibre content of the products ..must be of certified organic origin or from ‘in conversion’ period
2. Products sold, labelled or represented as “made with x % organic materials” or “made with x % organic – in conversion materials”:
No less than 70% of the fibre content of the products – excluding accessories – must be of certified organic origin or from ‘in conversion’ period
The Soil Association is a founder member of Global Standard GmbH, the managing body of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). They offer two types of certification:
1. Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification
2. Organic Content Standard certification (OCS):
This scheme verifies that a product has met organic standards throughout its journey – from raw material to finished product. When we certify to OCS standards, we work with producers to ensure a final product contains the accurate amount of a given organically grown material.
Organic Content Standard [and Here]
The Organic Content Standard (OCS) relies on third-party verification to verify a final product contains the accurate amount of a given organically grown material. It does not address the use of chemicals or any social or environmental aspects of production beyond the integrity of the organic material. The OCS uses the chain of custody requirements of the Content Claim Standard (CCS).
If you would like to know more about organic cotton you can visit http://aboutorganiccotton.org/