Cotton is one of the most pesticide intensive crops in the world. In India, cotton accounts for just 5% of crops, and yet accounts for 54% of annual pesticide use. Consider this; enough cotton for a single T-Shirt requires a third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to produce. The nine most common pesticides are highly toxic, five of them are considered probable carcinogens. The worlds second biggest selling pesticide, Aldicarb, is classified as Extremely Hazardous by the World Health Organisation. One drop absorbed through the skin is enough to kill an adult, yet it is still widely used in cotton production.
As well as the environmental damage caused by rampant pesticide use, the massive mismanagement of fresh water resources in the production of cotton has had extreme environmental impacts. The draining of the Aral sea stands as a stark example of this. Once the fourth largest inland sea in the world, in the space of one generation it has shrunk to less than 10% of its former volume. Futhermore, a full 60% of water diverted into Uzbekistan’s 28,000 kilometres of canal and pipelines for agriculture never reaches the fields it is intended for.
Organic cotton holds a number of benefits over traditional pesticide heavy production. Organic cotton;
- Uses seeds that have not been treated with fungicides or pesticides
- Never uses genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)
- Builds strong soil through crop rotation
- Physical rather chemical removal of weeds
- Maintains a healthy balance between ‘pests’ and their natural predators though healthy soil
- Uses beneficial insects to control pests
Beware ‘natural’ and ‘organic products that lack the proper certification. Organyc is certified by the Soil Association, meaning that product must meet a rigorous set of criteria regarding GMO’s, external contamination, conservation, harvesting and storing crops, and labelling requirements. Full details about Soil Association Organic Standards can be found here; www.soilassociation.org/organicstandards