Why should I use organic cotton? E-mail
PAN UK receives many requests for help from cotton farmers in many developing countries who wish to convert to organic agriculture, because they have witnessed the benefits organic cotton can bring. However conversion to organic agriculture is a difficult process and farmers need to be sure that they will be able to sell their organic cotton fibres. By choosing to use organic cotton, you help to develop the demand, and hence to allow many more farmers to transform their lives.
 
Is cotton really natural? E-mail
Cotton has been cultivated and used to manufacture textiles for thousands of years. We find cotton fibres inside the fruit of the cotton plant. Cotton is indeed a natural fibre, like wool, hemp, flax, silk, or alpaca. However for the past 50 years or so, cotton has been grown using ever increasing amounts of chemicals such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Thus while cotton remains a natural fibre, modern cotton production is often far from “natural”, unless it is organic.
 
Is there such a thing as an organic fabric? E-mail
An organic textile is a textile product (fabric, garment), made with organic cotton (or wool, etc) which has been processed and manufactured according to a set of “organic textile standards”. Some chemicals remain essential but the most environmentally-friendly chemicals and processes are used. Unlike organic cotton fibre, there are no laws governing organic textiles; the standards are therefore set by private agencies (such as the Global Organic Textile Standards, or GOTS, used by the Soil Association).
 
What does organic cotton mean? E-mail
altOrganic cotton means a cotton fibre which has been grown according to the principles and rules of organic agriculture. These rules are very strict and are defined by a law from the European Union. Organic agriculture uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). Organic fertilizers (such as compost) and plant-based pest management products (such as neem or garlic extract) are used. However, organic agriculture is not merely about replacing synthetic inputs with natural ones. The major principle is to restore a natural balance within the farm, with healthy soils, rich in organic matter. In such an environment, the pests are not systematically destroyed by poisons but are kept under control by their predators, just as they are in nature.
 
The true cost of non-organic cotton E-mail
On August, 24, 1999, in the village of Maregourou in Benin, three boys between the ages of 12 and 14 went to weed their father's cotton field. The cotton crop was cultivated together with maize. The day before, the father had sprayed the field with an insecticide and the boys did not know. After they had finished their work, they took a few maize cobs to eat and 15 minutes later started vomiting. They were taken to the nearest hospital where the youngest boy, aged 12, died. His two older brothers survived.
 
Some people say poor farmers would be better off growing food than cotton. Are they right? E-mail
These people are mistaken. First of all cotton is often the only “cash crop” poor subsistence farmers can grow to provide them with the necessary income to buy tools, clothes, school books, medicines, etc. Secondly, the concept of crop rotation is a major principle of organic agriculture. Organic cotton farmers typically grow twice as much food as cotton. This allows them to ensure “food security” (enough food) for their whole community. When farmers grow cotton organically they also grow, as a result, very healthy and nutritive organic food which is not contaminated by pesticides. We call this “food safety”, and it is all thanks to organic cotton.

Click here to find out more and our Fibre, Food & Beauty project

 
Is it true that many cotton farmers die from pesticide poisoning? E-mail

alt This is definitely true. The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 to 40,000 people die from accidental pesticide poisoning each year, most of them in developing countries. It is safe to assume that many of them are cotton farmers. The full and exact extent of this phenomenon is unknown as it is has never been monitored globally. However, a Pesticide Action Network survey documented 65 deaths in only two districts of Benin during the 2001 cotton growing season; 10 were children under 10.

Find out more
Living with Poison
PN 85 article Pesticide poisoning in West Africa

 


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