Organic vs non-organic production of natural fibres

One of the most common natural fibres is cotton. To imagine our lives without cotton is like imagining our life without some of our staple foods eg wheat, rice and corn. We tend to think of cotton as a natural fibre. Compared to synthetic fibres it is, but the vast majority of cotton fibre in the world is grown using chemical farming practices. Cotton is one of the heaviest users of chemicals and water of any agricultural crop. To bring cotton to harvest, it is heavily sprayed (8-10 times a season in extreme cases) with pesticides so poisonous they gradually render fields barren. It doesn't end there. To create finished goods, cotton fabrics are often coloured with toxic dyes and finished with formaldehyde.

Chemical farming is not safe. It is not safe in the manufacture of the chemicals, in the use of the chemicals, nor in the eating or wearing of the end products. The 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India – which included chemicals used on cotton – illustrates the risks and pollution that can and does happen during manufacture.

Cotton can be grown organically. Some farmers are making the change. The following are some reasons to support organically grown cotton.

Organic Nonorganic
Living soil is the basis of the organic farm. It is enriched by compost and other organic matter The soil is sterile with all microbial, plant and insect eliminated for the purpose of growing one plant.
Based on a concept that vigorous plants resist insect, weeds and diseases better than those under stress. Based on a belief that feeding plants heavy dosages of synthetic fertilisers and eliminating competing species creates maximum yields.
Based on working with nature to create a diverse farm ecosystem to support optimal growing conditions. Based on chemical herbicides, insecticides and defoliants to ward off insects, combat weeds and facilitate harvest.

Did you know:

1. Of all insecticides used globally, 25 percent are used in cotton production.

2. There are currently 400 pesticides on the market that have not been tested to determine if they cause cancer, birth defects or wildlife toxicity.

3. It takes 10 years to ban a pesticide in the USA using present procedures.

4. There are 107 active ingredients in pesticides that have been found to cause cancer in animals or humans.

5. Of those 107, 83 are still in use today.

6. There are 14 pesticides found to cause reproductive problems.

7. There have been 68 pesticides found in drinking wells in California since 1982.


Of the 496 pesticides identified as likely to leave residues in food, only 40 percent are tested by FDA routinely.