Cotton is one of the most widely known and widely used plant fibers in the world. It formed an important part of the early wealth and prosperity of America. However, one thing that many do not think about as they pick out their cotton bed sheets is how that cotton was grown and the impact that it has on the environment. Cotton, like any other factory-farmed crop is often grown using toxic fertilizers and pesticides. This is the key difference between organic and conventionally grown cotton. Organic cotton is grown in a way that has the least possible impact on the environment. It is grown using sustainable farming methods and without the use of fertilizers and pesticides. So what does this mean?
According to the Organic Trade Association, nearly 20% of the global production of all cotton produced used organic methods. Many do not realize that cotton is an intensive crop to grow. It is a heavy nutrient user, and unless it is produced using systems that pay close attention to soil nutrition, it requires the use of fertilizers for continued production. In addition, it is subject to many plant diseases that are often managed using herbicides and pesticides. Cotton production uses more chemicals and pesticides than any other crop (Organic-Cotton, 2010). Many of these chemicals are neurotoxins. As insects evolve they often become resistant to these chemicals and stronger or more chemicals must be used to keep them at bay.
Organic cotton is grown in such a manner that does not use fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. It has a much smaller impact on the environment and there is no chance of residual chemicals remaining in the final product. Organic cotton production uses systems of crop rotation, and natural insecticides in the production process. For these reasons alone, many are choosing organic cotton over conventionally produced cotton. There are different levels of organic when one speaks of nonconventional cotton production. For instance, some consumers require that in addition to sustainable production methods, their cotton products contain no genetically modified plant material (GMOs). They insist that cotton is not be blended with any synthetics at all. Consumer demand is driving production trends, so when you purchase organic cotton products, it is your vote for organic cotton versus conventional cotton.
There are several drawbacks to organic cotton that must be considered. One of them is that organic cotton production is more expensive than conventional cotton. This does not make sense because the farmer would appear to have less expense through not having to purchase all of those chemicals. However, organic cotton producers also take greater financial losses and must use costly labor to replace chemical sprays. Another term that consumers may hear alongside the “organic” label is “Fair Trade.” This term refers to a certification that the farmer who produced the cotton, as well as the factory workers receive fair wages and fair working conditions, when compared to their counterparts using conventional cotton production methods in industrialized nations.
Organically produced cotton may be slightly more costly than conventional cotton, but it is worth it. The consumer has the benefit of knowing that the products that they purchase help the environment and preparing for future generations. However, in addition to these benefits, several other direct benefits are also realized. In the production of conventional cotton the toxic chemicals do not stop in the farm field. Chemicals, oils, and waxes are used in the manufacture and processing of the cotton. These chemicals put out gases that may cause sensitivities in some people.
Organic cotton is the best choice to assure that sensitivities and allergies are not a part of you or your baby’s life. Purchasing the highest percentage of “organic” material possible is the best choice for everyone. Check out the wonderful organic cotton products available on this website… and read the labels, your baby, family, and planet earth are counting on you.
Organic Trade Association. (2010). Organic Cotton Facts. Retrieved June 29, 2010 from http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/organic_cotton.html
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