Saturday, April 13, 2013

Organic Cotton 101



What is "organic cotton?"

Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.

Organic cotton is generally understood as cotton from non genetically modified plants, that is to be grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides. In the United States cotton plantations must also meet the requirements enforced by the National Organic Program (NOP), from the USDA, in order to be considered organic. This institution determines the allowed practices for pest control, growing, fertilizing, and handling of organic crops.As of 2007, 265,517 bales of organic cotton were produced in 24 countries and worldwide production was growing at a rate of more than 50% per year.

Ecological footprint

Cotton covers 55% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 75% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop. Other  environmental consequences of the elevated use of chemicals in the non organic cotton growing methods consist of:
·         High levels of agrochemicals are used in the production of non-organic, conventional cotton. Conventional farming devours roughly a third of a lb of pesticides & fertilizers to produce enough for just  1 t shirt .
·         Cotton production uses more chemicals per unit area than any other crop and accounts in total for 10-16% of the world's pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants).
·         Pesticides, the nine most common are highly toxic; five are probable carcinogens.
·         GMO used in 70% of US grown cotton. That requires intense irrigation .
          Chemicals used in the processing of cotton pollute the air and surface waters.
·         Residual chemicals may irritate consumers' skin.
·         Decreased biodiversity and shifting equilibrium of ecosystems due to the use of pesticides.

Organic system plan 
Producers must elaborate an organic production or handling system plan which must also be approved by the state certifying agency or the USDA. This plan must include careful explanation of every process held in the plantation, as well as the frequency with which they are performed. A list of substances used on the crops is also necessary, along with a description of their composition, place where they will be used, and if possible documentation of commercial availability. This inventory of substances is important for the regulation of allowed and
prohibited material established by the SOP.Organic cotton growers must also provide A description of the control procedures and physical barriers established to prevent contact of organic and non organic crops on split operations and to avoid contact of organic production with prohibited substance during gestation, harvesting, and handling operations . This production plan can also be transferred to other states as long as it has already been approved by a certifying agency.
 Production 
Production requirements are specifically the set of changes that must be made to field and farming practices in order for a crop to be considered organic. To begin with, organic fields must go through a cleansing period of three years, without the use of any prohibited substances, before planting the first organic crop. Fields must also be equipped with physical barriers and buzzers in order to prevent contact of organic crops with any chemical substance product of surface runoff from crops nearby. Producers must also strive to promote soil fertility through cultivation practices while maintaining or improving the physical, chemical, and biological condition of the soil and minimizes soil erosion. Organic growers must also implement practices to support biodiversity. Such practices include integrated pest management (IPM), which consists of the manipulation of ecosystems that benefit both the crops and the 
organisms that live around it. In addition to these practices, producers may only apply crop nutrients and soil amendments included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed in crop production.
 Handling
Handling procedures are all the processes related to product packaging, pest control in handling processing facilities among others. The SOP allows the use of mechanical or
biological methods for the purpose of retarding spoilage of products, but at the same time it prohibits the use of volatile synthetic solvents in processed products or any ingredient that is labeled as organic.
 Pesticides
Since organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, it should contain fewer pesticides than conventional cotton. Pesticides used in the production of conventional cotton include orthophosphates such as phorate and methamidophosendosulfan (highly toxic to farmers,] but not very environmentally persistent) and aldicarb. Other pesticides persisting in cotton fields in the United States include TrifluralinToxaphene and DDT .Although the last two chemicals are no longer used in the United States  their long breakdown period and difficulty in removal ensures their persistence. Thus even organic cotton fields may contain them since conventional cotton fields can be transitioned to organic fields in 2–3 years.
Over time though, studies have been done to find alternatives to conventional pesticide substances. These nonconventional farmers have given up their land and its yields to the testing of different, more organic ways of pest control. Organic farmers argue that conventional farmers don’t know the long term effects of the pesticides they use, especially when the evidence is hidden under the soil. Some farmers in the US use composted tea leaves to act as a substitute for pesticides. Research continues to seek new environmentally, friendly ways to rid the soil of harmful pesticides. There has even been a study on using certain animal manure, like chickens, to decrease pest population.
 How is the apparel industry involved with organic cotton? 
Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton.  
What kinds of products are made using organic cotton? 
As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care
items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs and ear swabs), to home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding), children's products (toys, diapers), clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace), and even stationery and note cards.
In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.

 
Sources used in an article : Organic Trade Association , Wikipedia  




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1 comment:

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