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The previous blog covered just one aspect of comparison between organic and conventional cotton types viz. water consumption. There are more factors to be dealt with including climate change, working conditions, etc.
Growing organic cotton is an effective way to fight climate change, if not reverse it. The soil is the starting point. Organic farmers grow crops wherein nitrogen fixation is carried out naturally from the atmosphere. This means no artificial nitrogen fertilizers are sprayed on the crops with potential soil damaging characteristics.
Organic soils can trap carbon better from the atmosphere and thus this can have minimum impact on the ground as well as help counter climate change better. A point to note here is that the majority of cotton grown globally is genetically engineered. In spite of the hype, GM cotton proved to be a failure amongst the farming community. Also, it has been found that pests have fast become resistant to the GM crop, as increasing pest attacks on cotton crops have indicated.
In India, several farmer suicides are linked to growing debts over buying high-priced GM seeds and fixing issues that they are intended to fix. This has had a devastating impact on the farming and rural communities whose daily living depends on agriculture.
Farmers are at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals in the field, though only 14% of all insecticides are spread on cotton crops forming only 2.5 per cent of the global arable land. Human beings (as well as wildlife) are put to increased risk due to lack of affordable equipment to stay away from harmful exposure.
It doesn’t just stop there. Growing concerns among textile workers include taxing working conditions in garment factories, seepage of toxic inks and dyes into the wells, lakes and rivers, poisoning of drinking water and natural ecosystem and the associated risks that come along with it.
Compare it with producing cotton under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): factory workers need to be treated with respect, according to the conventions of International Labour Organisation (ILO), which stipulates maximum working hours, minimum wages, Zero Child Labour and freedom from inhumane treatment and bonded labour.
Under GOTS, factories can afford to use only low-impact inks and dyes, and the effluents need to be treated properly before being discharged into watercourses, thereby protecting the local communities and natural ecosystem.
Organic cotton production has evolved over the years owing to social and economic changes worldwide…a positive change that consumers will soon come to grip with!