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What is "organic cotton"?

Organic cotton is grown without pesticides and insecticides, furthermore organic cotton seeds are not genetically modified. For organic cotton cultivation only methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment are used (organic farming). Though organic cotton farming replenish and maintain soil fertility. Organic cotton cultivation reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers and build biologically diverse agriculture. Also farmers of organic cotton and their families profit, because water remains clean and less deseases and toxication appears form organic cotton farming. By that, Organic cotton agriculture protects the health of people. It also protects the planet by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides. These can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and are associated with health consequences, from asthma to cancer. Organic cotton agriculture abdicates form toxic and persistent pesticides, choosing organic cotton products is the easiest way to protect yourself and your skin.

Reasons for Organic cotton and against conventional cotton:

o Amount of conventional cotton produced per year: 25 million tons
o Amount of water needed for 1 kilo of non organic cotton: 29,000 litre
o High levels of agrochemicals are used in the production of non-organic cotton: according to the "Pesticide Action Network" cotton uses 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of all pesticides - the cultivation of cotton accounts for only 2.4% of agriculturally used areas. Thus cotton production uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop.
o Many of these plant protection products are highly effective neurotoxins, having been used as chemical weapons in the past. o The chemicals used in the processing of non-organic cotton pollute air, surface waters and people.
o Around 70 field workers are dying every day as the result of pesticides and insecticides application, the majority are children under the age of 14, additional 80 factory workers die every day because pesticide soaked cotton and fabric pollutes the air in warehouses and working areas (according to estimations of the WHO).
o According to estimations 450,000 children under the age of 14 work every day at Indian cotton farms in debt slavery and free of charge. o Since 1998 alone in India 40.000 farmers committing suicide, trying to escape their debts encurred at biotechnology companies.
o Massive human rights violations are commonplace: confinement of textile workers in the dorm rooms after 10 p.m.,as well as corporal punishment and abuse.
o Still the consumer suffers from chemicals in garments since non-organic cotton textiles irritate consumers' skin, as they can also cause neurodermatitis (chemical residues stay verifiable even in the ready-made garment).

Organic cotton production and the Environment:

o Yearly produced amount of organic cotton: 25,000 tons -> only 0.1% of the worldwide production is organic cotton
o Amount of water needed for 1 kilo of organic cotton: 7,000 litre o Application of pesticides and insecticides is forbidden in Organic cotton cultivation
o In Organic cotton cultivation only organic herb mixtures, crop rotation and natural enemies are used in fighting pests.
o Organic cotton farmers have a healthy work environment. The cultivation of the fields is sustainable. Organic cotton production and the people:
o No secondary damage for factory workers in organic cotton production
o Child and forced labour and slavery work are forbidden in organic cotton production
o Organic cotton farmers and cooperatives are independent from the price and patent politics of multinational companies
o Consumers of organic cotton textiles are safe from skin irritations.

Where is organic cotton grown?

The first organic cotton project started 1990 in Egypt. Today organic cotton is grown in over 22 countries: p.ex. Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. As of 2007 the largest producers of organic cotton are Turkey and India. According to "Organic Exchange" China, Syria, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Isreal, the United States and Pakistan are under the top ten organic cotton producing countries in the world.

How is the textile industry involved in organic cotton?

Since textiles are to a high percentage made form cotton, the apparel industry plays a significant role for the cultivation of organic cotton. But the key role plays the consumer, which has to demand more organic cotton textiles, to force apparel companies to use organic cotton as row material. When the demand of organic cotton in the textile industry increase, more and more developing programs for organic cotton can be set. But attention has to be paid to pseudo certificates of organic cotton which are used from some big companies for green washing reasons. Organic cotton certificates: When sourcing organic cotton it is crucial to pay attention to certificates, since only them can guarantee real organic and fair production through controls of the farmers and manufactoring companies. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic cotton producers use only materials allowed in organic cotton production. Undoubtly the certificate with the highest ecological and social standards is the "Eko Sustainable Textile" Certificate conferred by the Control Union. Only organic cotton textiles which are produced after the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) can carry this certificate. It not only includes ecological and environmental standards, but also social standards. Here are some manufactoring guidelines for GOTS certified organic cotton textiles:
- Safety regulations and machines have to be according to international ISO-standards
- In organic cotton manufactoring no organic halogens, no azo-dyestuffs, no chlorine bleaching, no formaldehyde..., are allowed and integrated sewage plant are mandatory.
- Compliance of ILO 'labour standards' und 'fundamental principles and rights at work', like free choice of employment and right of cancellation, freedom to form associations and unions, ban of child and forced labour, ban of corporal intimidation, payment of "living wages" (sufficient for food, lodging and cultural activity)
- Organic cotton workers work only in official employment contracts
- Organic cotton manufactoring is controlled through independent and unannounced inspections, with access to all production areas.
- Workers of organic cotton textiles have the possibility to address the certifying agencies through preprinted forms without knowledge of their supervisors.