Considered one of the most chemically dependent crops in the world, conventional cotton uses 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals and 25 percent of the world’s insecticides — in the U.S., one-third of a pound of chemicals is needed just to grow enough conventional cotton for a regular T-shirt. “Organic cotton is a solution to the problem of chemical use in conventional cotton,” says Lynda Grose of the Sustainable Cotton Project. Additionally, Grose says growing organic cotton is a great transition crop to convert chemical-intensive fields to a future organic farm, whether it’s for growing food or fabrics. “The ecological goal is to convert fields from chemical controls to biological controls.”
Organic cotton crops are kept healthy with a number of natural methods that help control weeds and pests. According to the Organic Consumers Association’sClothes for a Change program, these methods include mechanical or hand-weeding, crop rotation, planting several crops together (intercropping), use of mulches, adjusting planting dates and densities of crops, and introducing beneficial predator insects.
By using the sustainable methods farmers have embraced for centuries, modern-day organic cotton farmers are saving money on production and reducing the high health care costs associated with chemical exposure, because those involved in the production of organic cotton, from the farmer and weaver to the seller and consumer, are not exposed to the chemicals used in conventional cotton farming.