Cotton is a natural fiber. As such, it is opposed to synthetic materials such as polyester, polyamide or polyacrylic, which are produced from coal, natural gas or crude oil. Cotton is biodegradable, grows again and feels great on the skin. That’s very good. Or isn’t it?
The production of cotton is connected with many problems and often dangerous for humans and the environment. This article shows why you should look out for organic cotton when purchasing cotton clothing.
Organic cotton supports small farmers
Around 222,000 farmers in 19 countries grow organic cotton. 97% of the worldwide organic cotton is produced in India (51%), China (17%), Kyrgyzstan (10%), Turkey (10%), Tajikistan (5%), Tanzania (2%) and the US (2%). Nevertheless, organic cotton only accounts for 1% of total global cotton production. In many developing countries, cotton is the most important foreign exchange earner. It is often grown in remote rural areas and can help to integrate small farmers into economic cycles. For organic cotton, farmers usually receive a 5 to 20% higher premium, but this is not the same in every country. It also depends on the current market situation, the quality of the raw material supplied, price agreements, existing certificates and so on.
Organic cotton is GMO-free
Genetically modified plants dominate global cotton production. Around 65% of conventional cotton is genetically modified. Depending on the variety, genetic manipulation is intended to protect against pests such as the cotton bollworm, thus reducing the consumption of insecticides and weedkillers. However, the negative consequences are far-reaching: genetically modified seed costs around four times as much as conventional seed. Moreover, farmers cannot reproduce it from their own harvest, and have to invest in expensive seed every year. In addition, pests become increasingly resistant over time, requiring the additional use of expensive pesticides. All these aspects have already been shown to lead to a higher suicide rate among smallholders in India because they see no way out of their difficult situation.
Genetic engineering is prohibited in the cultivation of organic cotton. Certifications such as GOTS, Organic Content Standard (OCS) and GOPCA confirm that only GMO-free seeds were used to grow the organic crop. In contrast to genetically modified cotton, organic cotton produces seeds from which new plants can grow. This saves farmers enormous costs to buy new seeds. However, it has become very difficult for farmers, especially in India, Pakistan and China, to obtain non-genetically modified seed. This is one of the biggest obstacles to the further expansion of organic cotton cultivation.
No use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers
Cotton is grown on 2.5% of the world's arable land, but uses 10-16% of the world's pesticides - more than any other crop. The high pesticide use endangers biodiversity, poisons soils and waters.
This is an important reason to pay attention to organic quality in cotton. Chemical and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are prohibited in organic cultivation. Farmers combat pests with traditional methods. In this way they protect their own health, the environment and reduce their expenditure on pesticides. In organic farming, farmers practice crop rotation. This means that they cultivate different crops in the same field every year. This keeps the number of pests in check. By refraining from the use of synthetic pesticides, the natural enemies of cotton pests such as ladybugs, dragonflies and spiders survive. They support pest control in the field in a natural way.
Rotating crops also require different soil nutrients and therefore do not leach out the soil. Important microorganisms are preserved, the soil remains more fertile and consequently requires less organic fertilizers such as cow dung or compost.
Organic cotton: Less water consumption for irrigation
The cultivation of cotton is very water intensive. The data on how many liters of water are necessary for the production of one kilogram of cotton diverge, ranging from 1214 to 22500 liters of water per kilo. Concerning the difference in water consumption between conventional and organic cotton, a 2017 study by the Textile Exchange states that organic cotton uses 91% less water from lakes or other fresh water sources. The reason for this is that small farmers do not usually irrigate their fields artificially and irrigation is only done by rain. Organic cotton also requires less water than genetically modified varieties. Soils that are not contaminated with chemical pesticides can also store rainwater better.
Organic cotton is already naturally colored - without chemicals and dyes
In organic farming, often cotton varieties are grown that are already naturally colored. The natural colors of this cotton are beige, green and brown in various shades. This comes from natural pigments and acids in the cotton plant itself. The cotton fibers therefore do not need to be chemically bleached or dyed in further processing to obtain a great color. This saves costs in the textile production process and makes the end product more environmentally friendly. The purchase and disposal of toxic bleaching and dyeing agents is not necessary. By the way, natural undyed cotton is particularly suitable for clothing babies. The eyes of babies are not yet fully developed and are very sensitive. Bright colors quickly irritate and tire their eyes. Textiles in natural colors prevent such a sensory overload.
Organic cotton is ideal for sensitive skin
Clothing is like our second skin. It should protect us from wind and weather. But in finished textiles made of conventional cotton, toxins such as pesticides and chemicals can be found. These clothes can cause negative reactions or aggravate existing problems in babies with neurodermatitis, allergy sufferers and people with sensitive skin. These people suffer from irritation, rashes, eczema or skin spots. Organic cotton does not contain any chemical toxins. For GOTS-certified cotton, textile manufacturers even have to prove by laboratory tests that their finished products are not contaminated with chemical toxins.
Estimates before the outbreak of Covid-19 indicate that global organic cotton production will grow by another 10 percent next year. We at Pamboo are pleased with this prediction. After all, we are dependent on the availability of certified organic cotton in order to be able to continue to offer you our high-quality organic fashion for children and babies going forward.
Pamboo offers baby fashion from organic cotton that is undyed and unbleached. Discover organic baby clothing