Organic cotton is cotton grown without the use of toxic chemicals. Instead, it is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Conventional cotton is grown using toxic and harmful chemicals, including twenty-five percent of the world's insecticides and more than ten percent of the world's pesticides. The benefits of organic cotton come from the fact that healthier agricultural methods are used to farm it. The organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility and reduce the use of the toxic chemicals found in conventional cotton.
- In 2003, fifty-five million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on the 12.5 million acres of conventional cotton grown in the U.S.
- Cotton is the third largest product in the U.S. (behind corn and soybeans) in the total amount of pesticides sprayed
- Cotton is the fourth most heavily fertilized production in the U.S. (behind corn, winter wheat and soybeans) with over two billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers being applied in 2000
- The Enviromental Protection Agency considers seven of the top fifteen pesticides used on cotton in 2000 to be “possible,” “likely,” “probable” or “known” human carcinogens
Organic producers must abide by standards set by an outside certification organization for their product to be considered organic. In 2001, about fourteen million pounds of organic cotton were produced internationally. In 2005, the United States alone produced over three million pounds of organic cotton. The United States is the second leading producer of organic cotton, following Turkey.
Apparel companies are starting programs to manufacture organic products. Many are starting to use 100 percent organically-grown cotton while others are integrating small amounts of organically grown cotton along with conventional cotton. The types of products that use organic cotton range from personal care products to stationary.
Products using organic cotton
Source: Organic Trade Association