Why choosing Organic Cotton is better for everyone

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Cotton — a natural soft white breathable fluffy fibre. Anything made from this plant has to be good against our skin right? Not quite

Conventional cotton

Most of the worlds cotton (referred to as conventional cotton here) is grown using synthetic pesticides, fertilisers and genetically modified seeds. According to WWF Global ‘2.4% of the world’s crop land is planted with cotton and yet it accounts for 24% and 11% of the global sales of insecticide and pesticides respectively.’ That’s a quarter of the global sales of insecticide used just to produce cotton!

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Such pesticides and insecticides are used to ‘kill, repel or inhibit the growth of living organisms.’ Unfortunately these hazardous chemicals are also affecting our ecosystem, the farmers who are exposing themselves to these chemicals and you the consumer wearing these clothes.

Effect on the ecosystem

Cotton are thirsty plants. In fact cotton is one of the top 4 thirstiest crops. Because of this, cotton often requires irrigation to provide enough water to grow cotton crops.

Conventional cotton farmers also grow cotton year after year on the same plot of land. This causes soil degradation as nutrients are not replaced and reduces water retention in the soil.

Conventional cotton farmers use genetically modified cotton seeds. Such seeds were modified to ward off insects. Unfortunately such pests are becoming resistant and are now infesting the cotton. This leads to an increased use of pesticides to ensure crops are not ruined by pests. The increased pesticides used end up being washed out of the soil and pollute waterways. This is an issue in developing countries where water is often untreated.

Effect on farmers

Up to 77 million cotton workers suffer from pesticide poisoning each year. These chemicals cause physical ailments such as itchy skin, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures, disorientation and even death.

At least 1 million agricultural workers require hospitalization each year as a result of acute pesticide poisoning.

Effect on you

Pesticides used in cotton production has been found in clothing which can affect you, the wearer. These as well as other chemicals, such as those used in dyes, can lead to allergic skin reactions. Symptoms include redness, itchiness and scaling.

Farming better

Luckily there is another option — organic cotton.

Organic cotton farmers don’t use the hazardous chemicals that are used in growing conventional cotton. As a result, their work environment is much safer. They also use natural seeds instead of genetically modified ones.

Organic cotton is often grown by cooperatives helping small and marginalised farmers make a living. Organic cotton production is not as simple as replacing chemical fertilisers with organic versions. It involves balancing ecosystems, soil fertility, pest prevention, crop rotation and composting. These farmers are using more traditional farming method to grow their cotton.

Hard work that pays off

This benefits farmers and workers by reducing the risk of coming into contact with these dangerous chemicals. Keeping everyone safer.

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There are also many benefits to crop rotation. All crops play an important role. One crop may reduce soil loss. Another crop may help control pests, conserve water or be grown for food leading to increased food security such as growing rice or wheat. These crops may also be an additional income for the farmer.

To top it off, organic farming reduces soil and water contamination. The water pollution impact is in fact 98% less than non-organic cotton production.

Better for you

Thanks to these organic cotton farmers and the organisations that support them, you can now choose clothing made without such harsh chemicals.

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Purchasing organic cotton clothing contributes to safer working conditions for farmers and manufacturers of those items. It also benefits the environment by reducing the pollution of waterways and promoting healthy soil.

Organic cotton is better for the farmers, better for the workers, better for the environment and better for you.

Written by Shirena Vasan, owner of LilMooch — Your Ethical Clothing company. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

This article was originally published on goodonyou.org.nz on 6th September 2016.