Why use organic cotton?
The World Health Organisation estimates that 20,000 people in the developing world die every year because of pesticide poisoning, much of which is used on cotton crops. Pesticide poisoning is also thought to cause 3 million chronic health problems every year. Pesticides reduce soil fertility so that more and more chemicals are required to encourage crop growth, sinking farmers into more and more debt. Every year 200,000 farmers commit suicide because of their spiraling debt problems. Pesticide use is a dirty business.
All organic cotton is imported as it cannot grow in the UK. To sell an organic cotton garment in the UK, the cotton must meet the Organic Certification standards of the country it was grown in as well as the relevant EU regulations. Generally the land the cotton was grown on must have been free of pesticides for three years.
The Global Organic Textile Standard also enables the labeling of cotton fibre from the organic conversion period, for example '100% organic cotton - in conversion'. Cotton in conversion is grown on land which has only recently been converted to organic methods (typically less than 2 or 3 years). Therefore, although no chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are being used, residues may still be found in the soil. This conversion period is very difficult for farmers, who usually experience an initial drop in yield, while not being able to obtain premium organic price for their crops. Therefore, purchasing organic cotton - in conversion is a great way to support farmers making the difficult transition to organic.