Cotton grown by conventional means uses a high level of agrochemicals, using more chemicals per unit area than any other crop and accounts for around 16% of the world’s pesticides. The chemicals used will then pollute the air and nearby rivers. The residual chemicals may irritate the skin of consumers.
Organic cotton that is grown without the use of pesticides and from plants which are not genetically modified, clearly do not present such issues. However, it does cost more to produce. Nevertheless, production of organic cotton is increasingly rapidly due to an increase in demand – worldwide production is estimated to be increasing at a rate of 50% per year. The largest producers of organic cotton are Turkey, India, China, Syria, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Isreal, the United States, and Pakistan.
The demand for organic cotton began in the clothing industry, but quickly has moved on other items such as personal care products (make-up remover pads, cotton buds, etc) to home furnishings (towels, sheets, upholstery, etc). Organic cottonseed is also used in animal feed and organic cottonseed oil is used in a number of food products.
A Comparison Between Organic and Conventional Cotton
For seed preparation – conventional cottonseed is treated with fungicides or insecticides. Around 70% of U.S. grown cotton is grown from genetically modified seed. Organic cotton uses untreated seeds and is never grown from genetically modified seeds.
Conventionally grown cotton uses synthetic fertilizers and requires intensive irrigation. Soil is lost due to mono-crop culture. With organic cotton production, water is retained more effectively due to increased organic matter in the soil. Strong soil is built due to crop rotation.
With conventional cotton production, weeds are controlled using herbicides. Organic cotton production uses physical means of removing weeds and are controlled during cultivation with hand hoeing.
Conventional growing of cotton relies on a heavy use of insecticides and pesticides, frequently making use of aerial spraying with the inherent risk of drift onto other wildlife and nearby communities. Organic cotton growing maintains a balance between pests and their natural predators through healthy soil. It uses beneficial insects, biological and cultural practices to control pests. Sometimes a “trap crop” is used to lure pests away from the cotton.
Conventional cotton production uses toxic chemicals for defoliation, whereas organic production generally relies on the seasonal freeze.
If you care about the environment and are looking to purchase organic, recycled and fairtrade items, then why not pay a visit to The Earth Store .
My blog, A Smallholder’s Diary , describes my attempts at living as self-sufficient life as possible.