Quantcast

9 Reasons to Buy Products Made From Organic Cotton

Popular
Björn Forenius / Getty Images

What's the dirtiest crop on the planet? You may be wearing it.

At a production rate of 25 million tons a year, cotton is one of the top four GMO crops in the world—and nearly 95 percent of that global cotton production is GMO and/or conventionally grown.


Cotton earned the title "dirtiest crop" because it's sprayed with some of the worst pesticides, including: Bayer's aldicarb, which was banned in the U.S. in 2010, but reapproved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2016; Syngenta's paraquat, a highly toxic pesticide banned in the European Union but not in the U.S.; and Monsanto's glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organization as a "probable" human carcinogen.

Those and other toxic chemicals associated with cotton production pollute waterways and damage the health of farmworkers. They also contaminate consumer products.

GMO cotton isn't just used to make clothes, bedding, towels and other textile products. Cottonseed oil and other cotton crop waste products also end up in hundreds of processed foods.

Consumers should be just as concerned about wearing GMO cotton (or drying off with it or sleeping on it) as they are about ingesting it.

The best way to avoid GMO cotton textiles? Buy certified organic.

Here are nine reasons to choose organic clothing, bedding and other products:

1. Protect the Oceans From Microfiber Pollution

Conventional cotton used for clothing and textiles is usually combined with synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, fleece and polyester. Research shows that during washing, these synthetic fibers are released into our waterways, in the form of microfibers.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources estimates that around 1.7 million tons of microfibers enter the ocean each year, threatening marine species and sensitive coral reef ecosystems.

Don't want to contribute to the problem? Avoid synthetic fabrics altogether, including conventional cotton blends. Instead, choose clothing and textiles made from 100 percent pure and organic cotton.

2. Protect the Livelihoods of Cotton Farmers

In 2002, Monsanto introduced in India a pest-resistant cotton, genetically engineered with a gene from the bacteria Bacillus thurengiensis or Bt. Bt cotton plants produce a toxin that kills the bollworm, one of the crop's primary pests.

According to Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Monsanto promised that its Bt cotton would reduce the amount of pesticides farmers needed to buy, and increase yields and farm income by reducing crop losses due to pest attacks.

But GMO cotton failed in India. Farmers found that:

  • Bt cotton yields declined
  • Secondary pests emerged, forcing increased pesticide use
  • The price of cotton seed rose
  • Farmers lost the option to buy non-GM cotton seed.

The failure of Bt cotton took a heavy toll on farmers, and was widely blamed for a staggering increase in Indian farmers suicides.

3. Conserve Global Water and Energy Resources

It takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. In fact, the water needs of cotton are so high that cotton production has contributed to the draining of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Organic cotton has a much lower environmental footprint. Production of organic cotton takes 71 percent less water and 62 percent less energy than production of conventional GMO cotton.

4. Reduce Your Exposure to Hazardous Insecticides and Pesticides

Conventionally grown GMO cotton is one of the most toxic crops in the world. It makes up only 2.5 percent of global cropland, and yet it accounts for up to 25 percent of the world's use of insecticides.

In addition to being responsible for the use of toxic chemicals such as aldicarb and paraquat, GMO cotton is sprayed with large amounts of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was classified as "probably carcinogenic to human," by the World Health Organization. Glyphosate has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cancer and depression.

Organic cotton farmers use only organic-approved fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides from plants, animals and minerals to prevent pests and diseases. This slashes your risk of health issues, while also protecting farmworkers and reducing environmental pollution.

5. Help Keep the Food Supply Pesticide-Free

According to Rodale Institute, most consumers aren't aware of the following facts about conventional cotton's effect on our food:

  • Although cotton is not a food, cottonseed oil is produced for human consumption.
  • Cottonseed oil is used to produce Vitamin E.
  • Cottonseed oil is the primary ingredient in Crisco.
  • Leftover cotton cellulose fibers that are too short to be spun into textiles are used as food additives.
  • Cellulose from cotton fibers is added to a wide range of foods to thicken and stabilize the products.
  • Cellulose is used as a filler to extend serving sizes without increasing calories. Humans can't break down or digest cellulose, so it's being used to meet the demand for low-calorie, high-fiber foods.
  • Cellulose, which is basically a plastic, has migrated into numerous foods including cheese, cream, milk powder, flavored milks, ice cream, sherbet, whey products, processed fruits, cooked vegetables, canned beans, pre-cooked pastas, pre-cooked rice products, vinegars, mustard, soups, cider, salads, yeast, seasonings, sweeteners, soybean products, bakery items, breakfast cereals, including rolled oats, sports drinks and dietetic foods as a non-caloric filler.
  • Some brands of pizza cheese consist of cellulose coated cheese granules combined with silicon to aid in melting.

Making sure these derivatives come from organic cotton prevents toxic pesticides and herbicides from contaminating the food supply.

6. Reduce Your Exposure to Harsh Chemicals Used in the Cotton Manufacturing Process

A variety of toxic chemicals are used in the manufacture of conventional cotton clothing, depending on where the garments are made and what characteristics the manufacturer wants to achieve.

For example, "easy care" garments that are marketed as antimicrobial, anti-odor and anti-wrinkle may be saturated in formaldehyde.

Other chemicals used in the production of conventional cotton garments include chlorine bleach, ammonia, heavy metals and phthalates, a known endocrine disruptor.

Azo-aniline dyes are also commonly used. These dyes can cause mild to severe skin irritations, especially where there is friction between your skin and the fabric.

Organic cotton products don't use any of these chemicals, and use only low-impact and fiber-reactive dyes to get a lasting color.

7. Help Provide Better Working Conditions for Cotton Farmers

The conventional cotton industry has been linked to numerous human rights violations.

In Uzbekistan, Environmental Justice Foundation found widespread environmental and human right abuses in the cotton industry, including state-sponsored forced child labor. One-third of the Uzbekistan population works for the government-owned cotton industry. Workers have no access to protective gear or even a clean source of drinking water.

Buying products made of organic cotton promotes a safer work conditions for cotton farmers, by eliminating workers' exposure to dangerous chemicals.

8. Support Regenerative Agriculture

Responsible and sustainable organic cotton production provides a variety of environmental benefits, including reduced soil inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, decreased fertilizer runoff, lower field emissions and less irrigation.

These benefits help promote a healthy ecosystem, including healthy soil, which is a core principle of regenerative agriculture.

9. Increase Your Peace of Mind

Choosing products made with organic cotton gives you peace of mind by knowing that the items you wear or use are nontoxic to you and the environment, and don't contribute to human rights violations.

You can also feel good about using your purchasing power to make a difference. By supporting the organic cotton industry, you can influence other brands and manufacturers to consider switching to a more regenerative supply chain.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.

Read More Show Less

gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

By Nicole Greenfield

Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
TeamDAF / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
The Eqip Sermia Glacier is seen behind a moraine left exposed by the glacier's retreat during unseasonably warm weather on Aug. 1 at Eqip Sermia, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Andrew Yang's assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
hadynyah / E+ / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

Read More Show Less

Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

DESIREE MARTIN / AFP / Getty Images

Wildfires raging on Gran Canaria, the second most populous of Spain's Canary Islands, have forced around 9,000 people to evacuate.

Read More Show Less