Organic is a fashionable word. We eat organic, we use organic beauty products, we try to practice an "organic" approach to life but rarely do we think about actually dressing organic or even what organic really means and why it is important. We take it for granted because we don't know what the actual implications of an organic vs non-organic choices are. Below are 5 reasons why we think you should make the switch....
1. Toxic chemical cocktails, soiled soil and dirty water
FACT: Less than 1% of the world's cotton is grown organically.
Conventional cotton (the other 99%) is grown with a toxic cocktail of synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilisers and insecticides, many of which are produced by *nobody's* favourite corporate giant, Monsanto.
These chemicals are known to make the farmers and labourers who handle the cotton sick... very, very sick. As in, there are an estimated 77 million cotton farmers poisoned a year from pesticides!
The chemicals don’t just poison people, they poison the land and surrounding water systems too.
Intensive use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers means that soils become dependent on these chemicals and in so doing become drained of their natural nutrients and minerals. This makes the the soil less healthy and productive and essentially turns it into the equivalent of a chemically dependent drug addict - there is usually a 3 year conversion period to turn non-organic farms to organic (depending on what country you are in).
When growing cotton, it requires quite a lot of water. The excess water drains off to surrounding water systems. When using chemical pesticides and fertilisers, these chemicals then pollute the water and everything the water then drains into such as the local drinking water and ecosystems causing damage to humans, wildlife and the environment.
2. Farmers in a ponzi scheme
FACT: 95% of the cotton seed market in India is controlled by Monsanto
When farmers buy into GM seeds from companies like Monsanto it is because they are usually under the impression that these seeds will be more cost effective and provide a better harvest and yield. Contrary to the this, GM seeds are actually more vulnerable to drought and disease and require more pesticides and chemical fertilisers, resulting in an increase in costs to the farmers and, in India, a national epidemic of farmers’ indebtedness and suicides, with an estimated 3000 suicides a year. In fact, pesticides can make up 60% of the costs of cotton production...
“Just a few years back all the cotton grown here was non-GM. When the seed companies came they made sure none of the non-GM seeds were available to buy, so farmers were forced to convert to growing Bt cotton."
“The GM companies might claim that the yield has increased, but the fact remains that input costs have risen disproportionately. Here, it was only after GM cotton was introduced that the use of pesticides started, with Bt cotton you have to use a lot of fertilisers and chemicals. Every single day we see at least one of our farmers killing themselves because they unable to repay their debts. If all farmers are secure and happy as the Bt seed companies claim, then why are farmers killing themselves?” Kusum Rao, an organic farmer from Adilabad District in India and Chairman of Chetna Organic Farmer Association
3. Growing organic cotton can provide farmers with alternative sources of food and income
Conventional non-organic cotton is normally grown as a monoculture, which means growing one crop at a time i.e. cotton. If the cotton crop fails, the farmer will have nothing to sell and therefore no income. Traditionally farmers grew in a multi-crop rotational style where they could grow food on the same farmland as the cotton. This meant that if the cotton crop failed, they would likely still have food. Whereas with a monoculture crop, if the crop fails, there is no food and no income resulting in poverty, debt and famine. In addition, any excess food grown under the mixed culture method can also be sold at local markets for additional sources of income.
Growing organically not only provides farmers with food security and potential additional sources of income but it also helps maintain naturally healthier soils and more resilient crops. When growing organically, farmers are required to grow a diversity of crops rather than the monoculture method. The diversity helps keep the soil rich with natural minerals and nutrients and also makes the crops much less inhabitable for pests making the crop more likely to succeed.
4. Organic cotton saves water
FACT: 80% of organic production is rain fed rather than irrigated...
Cotton is well known to be a thirsty crop requiring 11,000 litres of water on average for each kilogram of cotton produced. When farmers grow organically they are saving water in a two-fold manner.
Firstly, they keep the water clean and safe from the chemical pollutants of the pesticides and fertilisers thereby protecting drinking water and local ecosystems.
Secondly, organic cotton requires farmers to maintain healthy soils since they cannot rely on chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Healthy soils are far superior than chemically polluted ones at holding on to and soaking up rain water and irrigated water, making it better able to make use of existing water resources and more resilient in droughts.
5. Organic cotton reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 94% than conventional non-organic
Cotton uses 7% of global pesticides and 16% of global insecticides even though it only occupies 2.5% of agricultural land. In developing countries, cotton is thought to account for 50% of all pesticide use. By eliminating the use of manufactured fertilisers and pesticides and thereby reducing nitrogen inputs, organic cotton growing produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional non-organic.
In addition, by maintaining their health, organic practices turn soils into a carbon sink removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
When researching materials for our first collection of SUSTAINABILITEES, we chose to use organic cotton grown in India. With less than 1% of the world's cotton grown organically, there is a huge amount of improvement that can be done in just this one area. It's a small choice to make but if we all make it together, it will be a big difference.
Our SUSTAINABILITEES™ are made from 100% certified organic cotton grown on GOTS certified farms. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. It ensures that textiles are truly organic and that every stage of the supply chain is practicing socially and environmentally responsible manufacturing.
All of our facts came from the below paper titled 'Have You Cottoned on Yet'. It's a simple, easy to read document that lays out well the points on why conventional cotton is bad and organic is a good solution. We highly advise you read it if you're looking for a bit of extra information.