Wear Organic

Wear Organic Newsletter - March 2007

Despite the irresistible rise of organic cotton, which is now finding its way to the mass market, many cotton farmers from the developing world continue to suffer form pesticide poisoning. New evidence is also suggesting that cotton pesticides may be a greater threat to coral reefs than we previously suspected. The fight to put sustainability back into cotton production continues...

1. New report exposes the human health and environmental cost of cotton pesticides
2. New book demonstrates socio-economic benefits of organic cotton in developing countries
3. Cotton pesticides may threaten Australia's Great Barrier Reef
4. Acclaimed guide My Sustainable T-Shirt now available in hard copies
5. The worst cotton insecticide faces international review
6. New magazine dedicated to sustainability in textile: Ecotextile News

1. New report exposes the human health and environmental cost of cotton pesticides

The Pesticide Action Network UK has persistently denounced the impacts of pesticide usage on cotton since 1991. At the time, between 2 and 3 billion dollars was spent on cotton pesticides worldwide. Of more than 300 million kilograms of pesticides used in the developing world every year - half was used on cotton.

15 years of campaigning by PAN UK and others have produced mixed results. On the positive side, alternatives to chemical-intensive cotton production have been successfully developed. IPM schemes around the world have shown that pesticide usage can easily be halved while increasing yields. The irresistible rise of organic cotton, which is now finding its way to the mass market, proves that cotton can - and should - be produced sustainably, without the use of pesticides.

However, 2 billion dollars worth of chemicals are still sprayed on the world's cotton crop every year, almost half of which is toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organisation. The associated health and environmental costs are immense. This new report Deadly Chemicals in Cotton reveals that vomiting, paralysis, incontinence, coma, seizures and death are some of the many side effects still suffered by farmers and children in the developing world who are routinely exposed to cotton pesticides, many of which are banned or restricted in use in the West.

Among many recommendations, the report calls for a phase out of the most toxic pesticides in cotton production, and increased support for more sustainable alternatives, including IPM or organic cotton.

Deadly Chemicals in Cotton is produced by the Environmental Justice Foundation, in collaboration with PAN UK.

Download report here
Télécharger le résumé exécutif en Français
Visit EJF website.

2. New book demonstrates the socio-economic benefits of organic cotton in developing countries

Dr. Frank Eyhorn's spent 3 years studying the impact of organic cotton on the lives of farming communities in the renowned Mikaal bioRe Project in Central India. This led to the publication in late 2005 by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) of a ground breaking report, the first of its kind, which was able to give a credible and true picture of the benefits of organic cotton farming.

In his new book Organic farming for sustainable livelihoods in developing countries? The case of cotton in India, Dr Eyhorn draws on his 3 years of research, and further integrates lessons learnt in other projects in Asia and Africa, in order to demonstrate how organic cotton provides benefits not only for the environment and human health, but also for the livelihoods of farmers.

This book assesses the potential and the constraints of organic farming for improving rural livelihoods. It is presently the most in-depth and comprehensive work on the socio-economic impact of organic cotton farming in developing countries.

Sri Sompal, former Chairman of the National Commission for Farmers and Minister of State for Agriculture and Water Resources in India, said:

"Dr. Frank Eyhorn's research on organic cotton grown in the central state of India is a pioneering work. It paves the way for the possibility of chemical-free, environment and health-friendly sustainable farming, involving lower costs and yielding higher returns to the farmers. The model is capable of being replicated globally."

2007, 224 pages, 17 x 24 cm, illustrated, paperback.

You can order the book from the editor (VDF, Zurich) using this order form.

3. Cotton pesticides may threaten Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

A new study in the journal of Marine Ecology Progress revealed last month that coral larvae are highly susceptible to very low concentrations of pesticides. The study shows that pesticide pollution, even at concentrations so low as to be practically undetectable, inhibit the development of the early stages of the corals' life. This serious threat may have been underestimated in the past as prior studies had focused only on later stages of corals' life.

The pesticides tested by the authors include chlorpyrifos, profenofos, endosulfan, carbaryl, and permethrin, which are all widely used in cotton production around the world, including on Australia's intensive cotton farms. Endosulfan in particular, the second most widely used cotton insecticide in the world, is currently under increasing scrutiny, and is the focus of an international PAN campaign demanding its phasing out (see 5).

Sediments contaminated by pesticides are often washed away from agricultural areas by storms and travel through river systems. Recent NASA satellite images of Australia's Great Barrier Reef showed for the first time that these sediments can travel over 135km offshore and reach the outer reef.

Therefore a combination of evidence is emerging showing that chemical-intensive agriculture pose a major threat to corals reefs. While some commentators argue that in the case of Australia the threat mainly comes from sugar cane growers, cotton is also produced in the relevant catchments areas, using some of the pesticides incriminated in the study.

Coral reefs are home to some of the world's most extraordinary biodiversity. It is estimated that at the current rate of destruction, 70% of the world's coral reefs will have disappeared within 50 years. While changes in water temperature due to global warming is believed to be the major source of concern, we can no longer ignore the major threat posed by pesticides.

Photo: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21269284-30417,00.html
Study: Markey KL, Baird AH, Humphrey C, Negri A (2007) Insecticides and a fungicide affect multiple coral life stages. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 330: 127-137.

4. Acclaimed guide My Sustainable T-Shirt now available in hard copies

"What a valuable resource!", "It is such a good and important document" are some of the feed back we were pleased to receive from some readers. Our new guide to organic, fair trade, and other standards and labels for cotton textile was launched online last month, and has already been downloaded by visitors from 41 countries. It is now available to order as a hard copy from PAN UK's website.

If you are a retailer of organic or fair trade products, or an organisation promoting sustainable cotton or ethical fashion, and wish to help us distribute free guides to your customers or visitors, please do not hesitate to contact us. My sustainable T-shirt aims to explain, in plain English, what the various labels for textile exactly mean, and how we can put sustainability back into cotton production.

Click here to order or download.

5. The worst cotton insecticide faces international review

Several international conventions have been adopted in order to address the severe health and environmental impacts of pesticides. As result, the use of the most damaging pesticides is progressively prohibited or severely restricted. One of these conventions is the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure, which aims to help national governments make informed decisions about the restriction of hazardous pesticides.

However, many very hazardous pesticides are still overlooked by international conventions. The International Pesticide Action Network campaigns to ensure the most problematic pesticides, those which have the worse impact on farmer's health and the environment, are no longer overlooked. Our current campaign focuses on one insecticide in particular: endosulfan. The Rotterdam Convention Chemical Review Committee will meet in Rome next week, and will discuss the fate of endosulfan. PAN will be there, and our African members will testify about the devastation endosulfan brings to cotton fields, as exposed in our recent report Living with Poison.

Endosulfan is the second most widely used insecticide in cotton production. It is highly toxic and has poisoned numerous people, livestock, and wildlife around the world. It caused many deaths among cotton farmers and their families in West Africa. It is also persistent in the environment, and remains a danger for a long time.

On August, 24, 1999, in the village of Maregourou in Benin, three boys between the ages of 12 to 14 went to weed the cotton field of their father. The cotton crop was cultivated together with maize. The day before, the father had sprayed the field with endosulfan and the boys did not know. After the work they took a few maize cobs to eat and 15 minutes later started vomiting. They were taken to the hospital of Bembereke where one boy of 12 died. The other two survived. (Pesticide News)

In many developing countries, children of cotton farmers live near cotton fields. Exposure to pesticides is very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.

On 7 August 2000, Issaka, from the village of Biro in Benin, who had treated his cotton field with endosulfan, returned to the house and left his work clothes on the roof out of reach of his four children, aged six to eight. During the night it rained and the water passed through his clothes, dripping into domestic vessels. The next morning their parents took water from these vessels for the children to drink and wash. Some minutes later, they began to have headaches, nausea and convulsions. They were taken urgently to the health centre, where they were treated with Diazepam and oxygen. But all four children died within 20 hours (Pesticide News)

Organic cotton production prevents exposing more children to the dangers of all pesticides. The Fairtrade Labelling Organisation has already taken a positive step by choosing to ban the use of endoslfan. However endosulfan is still distributed to millions of conventional cotton farmers around the world.

6. New magazine dedicated to sustainability in textile: Ecotextile News

It’s true to say that from the 19th Century Industrial Revolution in England, until the present day, the global textiles and clothing industries have been associated with pollution, poor working conditions and low labour rates. The editors of new magazine Ecotextile News say that now, this is all about to change.

Changes in regulations and increasing consumers' concerns about environmental and ethical performance of the textile industry are about to have a huge impact on how the textiles and apparel industries operate going forward. Ecotextile News is a new business-to-business magazine, dedicated to inform retailers, brands and manufacturers about new ethical and sustainable products, processes and systems. It aims to provides a platform to allow readers to capitalise on these new trends.

The first issue of Ecotextile News was launched last month, and included, among many topics, a series of articles about organic cotton. This month, the magazine will feature ethical sourcing (certification, labelling, etc...) as well as recycled fibres and textiles.

The editors said: " This exciting new magazine will allow forward-thinking fibre growers, yarn spinners, textile manufacturers, nonwovens companies, garment suppliers and apparel retail executives to keep their fingers on the pulse of sustainability and discover how it will influence their businesses going forward".

10% of the magazine's subscription revenues will be donated to an innovative sustainable project each year.

Ecotextile News is a publication of Mowbray Communications Ltd. Visit www.ecotextile.com

Pesticide Action Network UK
Development House
56-64 Leonard Street
London, EC2A4LT
+44 (0)207 065 0905

PAN UK cotton project is supported by:

The Hivos - Oxfam Novib Biodiversity Fund
The J.A. Clark Charitable Trust
The JJ Charitable Trust

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