Today, almost everything you buy contains some sort of synthetic fiber like polyester, nylon or spandex. There are those consumers, however, who reject synthetic clothing and insist on wearing only organic cotton clothing.
Let’s hope they like to iron clothes….
Organic clothing can be defined as clothing made from cotton that was grown without insecticides, herbicides or pesticides and must be of cotton that has not been genetically modified. In truth, most cotton grown in the world is grown with pesticides and approximately a quarter of all pesticides in the world are used for cotton growing. This, unfortunately, accounts for 20,000 deaths per year due to pesticide poisoning in mostly cotton farmers.
Farmers who grow organic cotton, on the other hand, are spared the risk of pesticides and use techniques that are inexpensive healthy for our ecology and sustainable to the population. These organic farmers use crop rotation and natural insecticides to grow organic cotton. It’s a more expensive process but many say it’s worth it.
Conventionally grown cotton uses more chemicals per hectare than any other crop worldwide. Many insects have become resistant to the pesticides used today so more and stronger chemicals need to be applied. This has resulted in pollution of local soil and water, along with soil erosion that can worsen the situations so that nothing can grow there after a few years. With organic cotton growing, none of these problems occur.
The use of organic cotton avoids skin irritation and allergic reactions seen in synthetic fibers or even in cotton clothing over-treated with pesticides, bleach or detergents. Often those working in the conventional cotton industry are exposed to toxic insecticides and other chemicals in the cotton itself. To avoid irritation, many people wash their organic cotton clothing in organic soaps that aren’t irritating to the skin or mucus membranes.
There are clearly established standards for growing organic cotton. There is also a specific certification system in place which uses acceptable standards for growing the organic product and helps consumers know that the product they buy has been inspected and has been found to be “certified organic”. Those farms growing organic cotton must maintain extensive records and must be routinely inspected.
There are several international programs designed to certify and protect the integrity of organic cotton and other organic textiles. One of them is the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and another is the International Organic Accreditation Services.
Although organic cotton is grown in eighteen different countries, it still makes up for less than 0.1% of the total cotton produced worldwide. Part of the problem is that the yields of conventional cotton are about three times that of organic cotton. Fortunately, larger textile companies are taking an interest in organic cotton and the amount of this textile will likely increase over time.
Currently, consumers can buy organic cotton in the form of clothing for adults and children, home furnishings, healthcare products, bedding and bath products, table linens, raw fabric, toys, diapers and even paper products. Organic, it seems, is hitting its stride among consumers and sales should continue to increase.