What does organic mean?
Organic as an adjective means: relating to, derived from, or characteristic of living plants and animals.
As a noun, any substance that is derived from animal or vegetable matter.
Organic agriculture in terms of cotton production relates to living plants and animals and concerns ecology.
When you talk about the ecology of a place, it refers to the pattern and balance of the relationships between plants, animals, people and the environment in that specific place.
Let's start from the very beginning
Organic products, edible or not, come from crops which are grown organically. Organic agriculture is an approach to production that doesn’t use harmful chemicals; like pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fertilisers.
The goal is to work towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable production, maintaining a close relationship with nature, supporting and nurturing the vital ecosystems.
Pesticides and insecticides
The use of pesticides and insecticides in agriculture is an important issue to take a closer look at. These effective yet harmful chemicals mark the major difference between conventional and organic farming. To understand the consequences of using these products, we must remember that these chemicals were initially invented to kill. Their job was to eradicate unwanted wild plants and animals (such as insects) from the fields – as doing so would increase the output of the field.
Think about it … our ecosystem consists of a diverse and carefully balanced group of plants, insects and animals. What happens when we continuously kill the insects (both the intended and the unintended ones)? We put the ecosystem under great pressure. When one part of the ecosystem drops in numbers, i.e. insects, then the next chain, (for instance birds) starve and their numbers start declining and so on. Creating a downward spiral.
Another very critical consequence of the insecticide use is the steep decline in pollinators, which include various kinds of insects, most known and arguably the most important being the honey bee.
Either due to the extinction of wild flowers (in conventional fields and cities) or due to the insecticides containing neonicotinoid, also known as neonics, the pollinators have seen a devastating impact. Neonics work by attacking the nerve cells of the pollinators, compromising their behaviour and often killing them directly. Neonics are used on more than 140 different types of crops, from apples, tomatoes and wheat to rice and soy beans.
Neonics were invented, sold and used widely from the 1990’s. The EU banned the most dangerous neonics in 2018, but not the entire group. And that ban covers EU production, not production outside of the EU!
Pollinators are vital for bringing life to the next generation of apple trees, wild strawberries and many other fruits, flowers, grains and vegetables.
And in regards to the quest to achieve maximum field output; it’s contrary to nature and only for the short-term benefit for the individuals profiting from it.
When farming organically, you’ll get a lower field output and in general this applies to all crops.
At The Organic Company, we believe that organic farming is the future, it’s a must. Conventional farming is destructive and should be forbidden. So, we have to deal with the downside which is a lower field output.
In order to deal with lower field output, we have highlighted 3 solutions/changes in behaviour:
1. LESS AND BETTER
The Organic Company works with a “less and better” strategy, which comprehends good quality and good functionality with no fast fashion or seasonal colours, with a focus on promoting alternatives to disposables. We would like to see this strategy in many more mainstream business. We have to realise, that in general many disposable products use the same amount of raw material as reusables, this makes the shift (from disposable to reusable) an essential move towards a much better resource management.
Perhaps our generations will one day be known as the “disposable generations” or the “waste generations”. Is that how you want to be remembered?
2. FOOD WASTE
In the food industry from post-harvest to retail (retail itself is not included!) 14% of all food is waste. This number gets bigger when the entire supply chain is included and an area we have to improve. Did you know that around 1.4 million bananas are thrown out every day in UK?
3. POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT INSIDE ORGANIC AGRICULTURE
Lastly, it is important to look at the development. Organic farming has over the years improved the output with environmentally friendly methods which do not violate the soil.
To emphasise the conventional hence critical behaviour, an UN report came out recently with a devastating message: we have seen an extinction of up to 1 million species and the total biomass has shrunk 82% and this has mainly happened in recent decades.
Besides the discussion above, GOTS certified organic cotton production has lower water consumption and less CO2 emissions compared to conventional cotton farming.
You may read more about this as well as the GOTS certification in other posts.