Organic Cotton, the benefits and the myths July 01, 2014 00:43

The BENEFITS

Organic farmers are true stewards of the land, working with the natural environment by respecting the soil and the balance of nature.

Healthy soil is built and maintained through crop rotation and composting. Organic Cotton is grown without the use of genetically modified seeds, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides or fungicides. Instead, weeds are controlled through hand hoeing; pests are controlled through the use of beneficial insects and trap crops.

Instead of using chemicals to defoliate the cotton at harvest time, farmers wait for a freeze or use water management systems.

Conventional cotton consumes and inordinate amount of highly toxic chemicals. They are harmful for all of us and especially for the farm workers and communities around the farms. According to the Organic Fiber Education initiative nine of the most common pesticides used on conventional cotton are highly and five are probable carcinogens.

Click here to read more from the Pesticide Action Network.

We salute the farmers who are making the transition to organic farming. They do so at substantial risk. It takes three years for a farm to become ‘organic.’ The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Programe (SARE) states, “Farmers converting to organic purely to improve profits often fail because they do not consider the huge range of economic, social and production changes that must occur. The transition period can be particularly stressful because of the need to develop and implement new management skills.” Yields typically drop during the first two years so in addition to adjusting to a new way of farming, farmers have to deal with increased costs without the benefit of selling their crop at the higher price organic cotton commands.

The MYTHS

You only have to spend a short time surfing the web to find dubious claims made by people trying to sell organic cotton. Following are three examples of common claims that are not credible.

Organic cotton is softer than conventional cotton. The softness of any cotton product depends on a lot of things, the quality of the cotton fiber, the quality of the yarn and its fineness, the way it is woven or knitted and finally the way it is processed afterwards (the bleaching and dyeing). Softness is not dependent on whether the cotton itself was grown organically or conventionally.

Organic cotton is more absorbent than conventional cotton. Absorbency if affected by the fabric construction, and the wet processing (the removal of the sizing, bleaching and dyeing).

Organic cotton products are completely “natural”. The word ‘natural’ is overused. It has no legal meaning. Remember, lots of things are ‘natural;’ formaldehyde is natural, that doesn’t make it healthy. When companies make claims about organic cotton that are not credible it hurts everyone by putting into question the integrity of the whole industry.

Consumers are a skeptical bunch and rightly so. As we stated above, there are so many compelling reasons to buy organic cotton, there is no need to embellish the facts.

“By safeguarding the environment and protecting habitats, organic agriculture also conserves and promotes species diversity, which boosts plant growth, helps fight disease and is essential for the planet.”

The Organic Trade Association