"Textile Exchange recently released Quick Guide to Organic Cotton, an overview of positive impacts of organic cotton, including frequently asked questions and supporting facts that indicate organic cotton is the preferred fibre choice compared to its chemically produced counterpart.“The Quick Guide to Organic Cotton, highlights the benefit of organic production as a pathway to restorative, resilient and regenerative landscapes and communities,” said La Rhea Pepper, MD, Textile Exchange."
Textile Exchange recently released Quick Guide to Organic Cotton, an overview of positive impacts of organic cotton, including frequently asked questions and supporting facts that indicate organic cotton is the preferred fibre choice compared to its chemically produced counterpart.“The Quick Guide to Organic Cotton, highlights the benefit of organic production as a pathway to restorative, resilient and regenerative landscapes and communities,” said La Rhea Pepper, MD, Textile Exchange. “Cotton production has evolved over the last 15 years, and greater awareness of the health, economic and environmental benefits of organic farming practices by farmers and buyers has influenced corresponding improvements in many cotton production systems, including the input intensive practices of chemically grown cotton.” Textile Exchange reports that adoption of preferred cotton production methods has grown to 8.6 per cent of the cotton market but organic cotton, in general, continues to have the lowest environmental impacts.
Health and environmental impacts
The current research work reveals three top reasons to support the expansion of organic cotton agriculture. The first one concerns health and environmental impacts of pesticides that must be acknowledged in a comparison of organic and chemically grown cotton production. According to the USDA’s National Organic Program, organic farming is defined as the application of a set of cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. These include maintaining or enhancing soil and water quality; conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife; and avoiding use of synthetic fertilisers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering.
Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides or fertilisers while chemical cotton is dependent on both. According to the Pesticide Action Network UK, cotton crops cover 2.4 per cent of the world’s cultivated land but use 6 per cent of the world’s pesticides, more than any other single major crop. Chemically intensive agriculture, especially in irrigated systems, push the ecosystem year-on-year for higher yields. This requires the use of an ever-increasing amount of chemical inputs, including growth regulators.
Water pollution – the real cause?
Whether the cotton is grown with chemicals, or organically, each farm and geographic region of the world will have different water usage and impacts. However, the notion that chemical cotton uses less water than organic cotton is false. Textile Exchange initiated a peer-reviewed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) on organically grown cotton that uses the same methodology and the same LCA consultancy as was used for chemically grown cotton to ensure the most reliable information to base comparisons. Based on the LCA findings, organic production of cotton for an average sized t-shirt resulted in a savings of 1,982 gallons of water compared to the results of chemically grown cotton. The real issue about water is pollution. Toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton production are poisoning the very water it claims to save.
Towards attaining growth pastures
“Textile Exchange believes that consumers who care about the environment and the farming communities which produce the cotton for their clothing, should support brands and retailers using organic and preferred cotton,” advocates Liesl Truscott, Materials Strategy Director, Textile Exchange. According to the latest Textile Exchange report, the top 10 users of organic cotton by volume are C&A; H&M; Tchibo; Inditex; Nike, Inc.; Decathlon; Carrefour; Lindex; Williams-Sonoma, Inc.; and Stanley and Stella.