Yes, it is so bad and so destructive, it should be forbidden. That’s our opinion, and below we’ll bring your attention to various aspects of the conventional cotton industry.
The primary difference is pesticides. Conventional farming uses a lot, whereas organic farming does not use pesticides at all. The following chapters elaborate on pesticides and the consequences of using them.
A pesticide, is any toxic substance used to kill animals, fungi, or plants that are deemed to cause economic damage to crops and ornamental plants or are hazardous to the health of humans or domestic animals. All pesticides interfere with normal metabolic processes in the pest organism and are often classified according to the type of organism they are intended to control; herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, fumigant.
Insecticides are categorised by any toxic substance that is used to kill insects. Such substances are primarily used to control pests that infest cultivated plants or to eliminate disease-carrying insects in specific areas. This is the target, however other insects in the soil and around the plant suffer from these toxic substances too.
The synthetic contact insecticides are the primary agents of insect control. In general, they penetrate insects readily and are toxic to a wide range of species (targeted and untargeted). Cotton plants are sprayed with insecticides, many of the chemicals in these products are banned in the west, yet most Indian workers toil barefoot and without masks. Which makes the spraying of these pesticides an environmental disaster as well as a human one.
Conventional cotton is the crop using the most insecticides and pesticides in the world, it uses approximately 16% of the world’s insecticides and 7% of pesticides.
WATER CONSUMPTION AND POLUTION
The World Economic Forum has identified water scarcity as one of the top 10 global risks to society over the next 10 years, yet the bulk of cotton is grown in countries that are already facing severe water stress. So when one kilo of cotton takes as much as 20,000 litres of water to produce, it’s a big, often forgotten and devastating issue, for us and our ecosystems.
Most organic cotton is grown in rain-fed areas, this mean farmers rely on rain to water their cotton, instead of having to extract water from the ground. GOTS certified organic cotton production (from farming to end product) uses 91% less water compared to conventional cotton production. Another way of saying this: Buying a GOTS certified organic cotton T-shirt would save 2,457 litres of water compared to a conventional one.
Lastly, the issue of wastewater; in conventional cotton production, the wastewater is often polluted and contains residues from heavy metals and other environmentally harmful ingredients and is rarely purified. In all parts of GOTS organic cotton production the wastewater is purified before re-entering the cycle. As much as 20% of global water pollution is a result of dyeing textiles the conventional way. Exposure to these chemicals causes long term complications to both humans and animals.
An ecosystem is defined as the habitat in which animals, plants, and microorganisms interact with non-living factors such as landscapes and temperature. A balanced ecosystem maintains a flow of materials and energy. In a balanced ecosystem, an interdependence of each element exists, waste materials can be used by other living animals, plants and organisms within the system. All species are important and help to keep the ecosystem balanced.
When humans farm with pesticides and exploit the soil, it becomes degraded and out of balance. This is the result of conventional farming and represents the majority of our farmed land. Crop production makes up 11% of global land use (which is 36 percent of all the land estimated to be somewhat suitable for crop production).
It is devastating and at a certain point becomes irreversible, it affects our entire ecosystem in a downward spiral.
Organic agriculture is a way of farming that attempts to be in partnership with the natural world rather than dominating it. Organic farmers cannot use synthetic substances (e.g. fertilisers, pesticides, pharmaceuticals) and they need to restore the natural ecological balance because a functioning ecosystem is their main productive “input”.