Yes, it is so bad and so destructive, it should be forbidden. That’s our opinion, and below we’ll bring your attention to various aspects of the conventional cotton industry.
The primary difference between conventional cotton and organic cotton is the use of pesticides. Conventional farming uses many pesticides and specifically insecticides, whereas organic farming does not use any. The following paragraphs elaborate on pesticides and insecticides and the consequences of using them.
A pesticide, is any toxic substance used to kill 'pests', these could be animals, fungi and plants that are deemed to cause economic damage to crops or ornamental plants. All pesticides interfere with normal metabolic processes in the pest organism and are often classified according to the type of organism they are intended to control; herbicide, insecticide, fungicide and fumigant.
Insecticides are categorised by any toxic substance that is used to kill insects. Such substances are primarily used to control pests that infest cultivated plants or to eliminate disease-carrying insects in specific areas. This is the target, however other insects in the soil and around the plant suffer from these toxic substances too.
The synthetic contact insecticides are the primary agents of insect control. In general, they penetrate insects readily and are toxic to a wide range of species both targeted and untargeted. Cotton plants are regularly sprayed with insecticides, many of the chemicals in these products are banned in the west, yet most Indian workers toil barefoot and without masks. This makes the spraying of these pesticides an environmental disaster as well as a human one.
Conventional cotton is the crop which uses the most insecticides and pesticides globally, it uses approximately 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of pesticides.
WATER CONSUMPTION AND POLLUTION
The World Economic Forum has identified water scarcity as one of the top 10 global risks to society over the next 10 years. The bulk of cotton is grown in countries that are already facing severe water stress, so when one kilo of cotton takes as much as 20,000 litres of water to produce, it’s a big and often forgotten issue which can be devastating for us and our ecosystems.
Most organic cotton is grown in rain-fed areas, this means that farmers rely on rain to water their cotton, instead of having to extract water from the ground. GOTS certified organic cotton production (from farming to end product) uses 91% less water compared to conventional cotton production.
Another way of saying this is: Buying a GOTS certified organic cotton T-shirt would save 2,457 litres of water compared to a conventional one.
Lastly, the issue of wastewater; in conventional cotton production, the wastewater is often polluted and contains residues from heavy metals and other environmentally harmful ingredients and is rarely purified. In all parts of GOTS organic cotton production the wastewater is purified before re-entering the cycle. As much as 20% of global water pollution is a result of dyeing textiles the conventional way. Exposure to these chemicals causes long term complications to both humans and animals.
An ecosystem is defined as the habitat in which animals, plants, and microorganisms interact with non-living factors such as landscapes and temperature. A balanced ecosystem maintains a flow of materials and energy and an interdependence of each element exists. For example, waste materials can be used by other living animals within the system, all species are important and help to keep the ecosystem healthy and balanced.
When humans farm with pesticides and exploit the soil, it becomes degraded and out of balance. This is the result of conventional farming and represents the majority of our farmed land. Crop production makes up 11% of global land use (which is 36% of all the land estimated to be somewhat suitable for crop production).
It can be devastating and at a certain point become irreversible affecting our entire ecosystem causing a downward spiral in soil health and species abundance.
Organic agriculture is a way of farming that attempts to be in partnership with the natural world rather than dominating it. Organic farmers cannot use synthetic substances (e.g. fertilisers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals) and they need to restore the natural ecological balance because they rely on a functioning ecosystem as their main productive “input”.
Read more about our GOTS certified products here.