By: D. Gopalakrishnan
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Textile Management,
1483, Avanashi road, Peelamedu, Coimbatore - 641 004
Email: dgk_psgtech@yahoo.co.in

Cotton is the basic resource for thousands of consumer and industrial products manufactured in throughout the world, and the contribution made by cotton to the food and fiber industry continues to grow in importance. Cotton grown without the use of any synthetically compounded chemicals (i.e. pesticides, growth regulators, defoliants, etc.) and fertilizers is considered as 'organic' cotton. But it cannot be claimed as organic unless it is certified as organic. Organic production can be defined in many ways but organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. Organically raised cotton is gradually winning over new ground both on the farm and in the marketplace. No toxins or synthetic fertilizers are used. Organic cotton is produced without the use of harsh chemical bleaches or dyes, and is allergy free. Natural fertilizers, a compost and soil amendment are used, and advances in natural pest control, such as ladybugs which destroy harmful insects, have helped make raising organic cotton a viable enterprise. Organic cotton clothing, unheard of a few years ago, is now available in many stores and online businesses. A wide variety of products made from organically grown cotton is now available: shirts and pants, socks, underwear, skirts and blouses, sheets and pillowcases, towels and bathrobes. The range of styles can be somewhat limited, but new styles are being developed to keep pace with the growing demand for organic cotton clothing.

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1. Introduction

Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.

The conventional cultivation of cotton leads to massive environmental and health problems. Around the world, more toxic insecticides are used on cotton than on any other crop. A sustainable alternative is the certified organic cultivation of the "white gold". The farmers have only a chance to convert their production into a controlled organic cultivation of cotton if there is sufficient demand for organic cotton. Consumers interested in the sustainable use of clothes and textiles will find the opportunity to search for producers and retailers.

Cotton sold as "organic" must be grown according to the federal guidelines for organic crop production. Soil fertility practices that meet organic certification standards typically include crop rotation, cover cropping, animal manure additions, and use of naturally occurring rock powders. Weed management is accomplished by a combination of cultivation, flame weeding, and other cultural practices. A wide variety of insects attack cotton. Management options include trap cropping, strip cropping, and managing border vegetation to encourage high populations of native beneficial. Certain biopesticides using bacteria, viruses, and fungal insect pathogens are available as insect control tools.

1.1. The Problem with Conventional Cotton Production

Cotton provides about half of all global fibre requirements. In addition to the six big producers (US, China, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey) cotton is produced in over 60 countries. It is an important source of income for millions of small farmers and contributes significantly to the national economy of many developing countries. The size of the global cotton-growing area has not changed much since the 1930s but average yields have increased threefold through the intensive use of synthetic chemicals, irrigation and the use of higher-yielding plant varieties. Conventional cotton is very prone to insect attacks and large quantities of the most toxic insecticides are used in its production. Cotton accounts for about 25% of the global insecticides market by value and about 10% of the pesticides market. The intensive use of toxic insecticides and other toxic chemicals in cotton has caused serious health and environmental impacts, including farmer and farm worker poisonings, water contamination and bird and fish kills.

1.2. Organic Cotton Can Bring Health and Environmental Improvements

The negative impacts of chemical-intensive agricultural production, that momentum for change has grown considerably in recent years. The trend toward more environmentally friendly production methods is supported by a variety of interests including farmers wanting to escape the chemical treadmill, enlightened companies under pressure of increased environmental regulation and competition, and informed consumers calling for greater social and environmental accountability. The burgeoning consumer interest in organic food production has now expanded into other areas of organic production including cotton fibre produced in organic systems.

Organic cotton is produced in organic agricultural systems that produce food and fibre according to clearly established standards. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetically modified organisms. It seeks to build biologically diverse agricultural systems, replenish and maintain soil fertility, and promote a healthy environment.

1.3. Certification of Organic Cotton

Certification of organic cotton production adds credibility to the final product assures the buyer of the organic status of the product and encourages payment of premium prices to farmers who engage in organic practices. Certification is a system which sets standards, ensures that organic standards are met and communicates compliance to consumers through appropriate labeling. When a grower or processor is "certified organic," an independent organization has verified that the company meets or exceeds defined organic standards. Certified organic farms are inspected regularly and must maintain comprehensive records of their production methods.

Certification programmers and standards vary, especially in response to regional differences, although there are general underlying concepts. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has produced Basic Standards covering organic production and also textile processing which provide a minimum basis upon which standards in many countries have been based. The International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS) also exists to accredit certification systems. There are many certification agencies worldwide for organic cotton production but far fewer for certifying cotton processing to assure reduced health and environmental impacts. Several sets of processing standards exist in Europe and others are being developed in Europe and in the United States.


1.4. Cotton production by the organic process

In all stages of cotton production the organic process uses natural alternatives to conventional chemical intensive means:

1.4.1. Seed Preparation

Conventional seed preparation the seeds are usually treated with fungicides and insecticides, in many cases using genetically modified (GM) seeds. The organic processes seek alternative chemical free solutions to insecticides (as mentioned below) and use untreated non-GM seeds.

1.4.2. Soil Quality

Synthetic fertilizers are applied to the soil in conventional cotton farming, where there is usually a mono-crop farming culture. Organic farming encourages naturally productive sold as a result of crop rotation, and does not rely on synthetic fertilizers to boost yield.

1.4.3. Watering

Far less water is used in the production of cotton on organic farms, where organic matter is used in the soil to retain water efficiency rather than rely on the intensive irrigation required on conventional farms.

1.4.4. "Pest" Control

Conventional farming heavily relies on toxic pesticides and insecticides to control "pests", often using blanket aerial spraying techniques that can drift onto neighboring farmland and wildlife. Organic control methods recognize beneficial insects and maintain a balance between "pests" and their natural predators to aid a healthy. Natural soil environment.

1.4.5. Weed Control

Organically farmed land employs the physical removal of weeds and continues to control weeds through cultivation and hand hoeing. The organic approach eliminates the need for the mass of chemical herbicides used in conventional cotton farmland.

1.4.6. Harvesting

Organic methods wait for defoliation to occur from natural seasonal freezing, or stimulate defoliation through water management. Conventional farming defoliates through the use of toxic chemicals.

Organic farming improves the soil fertility, is better for wildlife and causes less pollution from sprays. Raw materials such as leather and skins would have to be produced to Soil Association standards. And no system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare standards than organic farms working to our standards. The sustainable farming practices used to grow organic cotton do not pollute groundwater, surface water, soil, or air. In fact, soil quality is actually improved by the production of organic cotton. Organic cotton is safer for farmers, for the environment, and for all the other creatures.

2. Organically raised cotton

Organically raised cotton is gradually winning over new ground both on the farm and in the marketplace. No toxins or synthetic fertilizers are used. Organic cotton is produced without the use of harsh chemical bleaches or dyes, and is allergy free. Natural fertilizers, a compost and soil amendment are used, and advances in natural pest control, such as ladybugs which destroy harmful insects, have helped make raising organic cotton a viable enterprise. Organic cotton clothing, unheard of a few years ago, is now available in many stores and online businesses.

A wide variety of products made from organically grown cotton is now available: shirts and pants, socks, underwear, skirts and blouses, sheets and pillowcases, towels and bathrobes. The range of styles can be somewhat limited, but new styles are being developed to keep pace with the growing demand for organic cotton clothing.

3. Organically colored cotton

Colored dyes are still a problem, even with organically grown cotton. Dyes are toxic chemicals, and their use and disposal has harmful effects on the environment. New methods are being developed to address this problem. Organically colored cotton is being developed to address this problem, and earth tones are now available which use no dyes whatsoever. Today, colored cotton is grown "on the stem" in shades of brown, reddish brown, green and yellow. The cost of naturally colored cotton is also estimated at 20 to 40% lower than chemically dyed cotton. Colored cotton is also suitable for chemically sensitive people. Color-grown cotton doesn't fade like dyed does; the color will actually deepen when you wash it.

4. Recycled Cotton

Recycled Cotton is another more earth-friendly choice in cotton clothing. Recycled cotton is cotton fabric which has been made from recovered cotton that would otherwise be cast off during the spinning, weaving or cutting process. A trade name for recycled cotton is Eco Fibre; there are no harsh chemicals used in the processing of this fabric. The clothing business is big business, and there is big resistance to change from chemically-dependent processes to organic processes of clothing manufacture. The bottom line is demand. Manufacturers will do what the consumer dictates, and so the change to environmentally responsible, organic cotton clothing begins with you the consumer.

5. Benefit of Organic process

Organic agriculture protects the health of people and the planet by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences, from asthma to cancer. Because organic agriculture doesn't use toxic and persistent pesticides, choosing organic products is an easy way to help protect the people. Acreage estimates for the 2005 U.S. cotton crop show approximately 6,577 acres of certified organic cotton were planted in the United States. Internationally, Turkey and the United States are the largest organic cotton producers. Demand is being driven by apparel and textile companies that are expanding their 100% organic cotton program and developing programs that blend small percentages of organic cotton with their conventional cotton products.

6. Importance of organic cotton production

Organic Cotton is buttery-soft, and gets even softer with each washing. It's stronger and more durable than most other fabrics. Color-grown cotton (un dyed) actually gets bolder in color over time. Organic Cotton is a better long-term value than other fabrics and the future. Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants.). (Allan Woodburn) It takes roughly one-third of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just one T-shirt. (SCP)

7. Involvement of apparel industry with organic cotton

Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton. As a result of consumer interest, organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs and ear swabs), to home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding), children's products (toys, diapers), clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace), and even stationery and note cards. In addition, organic cotton seed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.


Conventional cotton is often promoted as a "natural" product; however, it is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, utilizing more than 25% of all the insecticides in the world--yet it is farmed on only 3% of the world's farmland. In the USA alone, an estimated 800 million pounds of pesticides are used on cotton each year. In addition, conventional cotton textile manufacturing involves bleaches, formaldehyde, and other chemical finishes, as well as other chemical processes. Almost 1/3 pound of synthetic chemicals is utilized for each pound of conventional cotton. Traces of these chemicals remain in the finished product, even after repeat washings. The chemicals used to grow conventional cotton may have serious adverse effects on human health and the environment.

Organic cotton farmers tend to grow on a smaller scale and do not use expensive harvesting machines or large quantities of chemicals like conventional cotton growers. As a result of farming organically, some farmers are reporting higher incomes. Organic cotton is grown on a smaller scale and is generally handpicked. This a more accurate way of harvesting than using machinery - allowing workers to select the best quality cotton. Organic farming improves the soil fertility, is better for wildlife and causes less pollution from sprays.

8. Genetic Modified Cotton

There are two main types of GM cotton, one is herbicide tolerant and one has insect resistance. Monsanto is the main developer of GM cotton globally. The same problems are emerging with GM cotton as with other GM crops: the use of sprays is not necessarily reduced; pesticide resistance is a possibility, as is contamination with other crops. No GM products will be allowed in organic textiles.

9. Need ness of Organic processed cotton

The textiles industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. We need an alternative. One that is not dangerous and doesn't cause such destruction to our environment. Around a quarter of the world's insecticides are used to grow conventional cotton and at least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw material into clothes, towels, bedding and other items that we put next to our skin every day. Shockingly, some of the most widely used chemicals have been associated with cancers and birth defects. And some have hormonal and reproductive effects - for example male fish when exposed to certain chemicals have started to develop female characteristics.

While finished goods made from polyester, nylon, etc. are generally cheap, due to artificially maintained low petroleum prices, the actual cost to the environment of acquiring, transporting refining and manufacturing these materials is seldom taken into account by consumers. The amount of water and energy resources alone, if known, would turn off many buyers. Factor in the pollution these processes cause.

9.1. Pesticides kill more than pests

Today's pesticides are very effective. However, to be as effective as they are, they're extraordinarily strong, and long lived. They pollute the ground for years, draining it of natural nutrients, forcing the use of more, and more dangerous, fertilizers and eventually making it unsuitable for farming use. This is the heart of "unsustainable" agriculture. The pesticides pollute the groundwater, making its way to health problems at extreme risk for cancer and many other diseases. The bleach is even worse than the pesticides. These are not short-term problems. Once these pesticides are introduced, they'll be around for three generation to deal with.

10. The Expanding Organic Cotton Market

Organic cotton is now grown in 18 countries but still represents only a tiny fraction of the total global cotton production - less than 0.1%. The biggest producers in 2001 were Turkey, the United States, India and Peru. There are also signs that organic cotton is moving out of its niche market into the mainstream with increased interest on the part of supermarkets and large companies. Some clothing and textile companies are becoming interested in blending small quantities of organic cotton with conventional cotton. Purchase of organic cotton for such programs expands organic agricultural production.


Market retail leaders in after 2000 were Patagonia (USA - specialist outdoor clothing company), Coop Schweiz (Switzerland - all types of clothing), Nike (USA - sports clothing), Otto (Germany - large mail-order company) and Hess Natur (Germany - medium sized mail-order company), other well known retailers such as Marks and Spencer (UK) or Migros (Switzerland) are following. With Organic Exchange, there is another US-based movement aiming to encourage more and more mainstream garment and textile companies to use organic cotton. In addition, there are a large and increasing number of small companies involved. The range of products available has also increased and their diversity. Products now include all kinds of clothing for men, women and children, personal and healthcare products, home furnishings (mattresses, bedding, bath items, table linens and accessories) and fabrics, toys and nappies (diapers) - and even stationery and other paper goods.

The textile sector in general is facing price competition as never before. Many companies are seeking comparative advantage in the quality of their products and in 'greening' themselves - and organic cotton is a way of achieving these objectives. The challenge is to communicate the health and environmental benefits of organic cotton production and processing to consumers so that their interest will be expressed in their buying preferences.

Conclusion

Organic cotton farmers tend to grow on a smaller scale and do not use expensive harvesting machines or large quantities of chemicals like conventional cotton growers. As a result of farming organically, some farmers are gain higher incomes. Organic cotton is produced in organic agricultural systems that produce food and fibre according to clearly established standards. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers, as well as genetically modified organisms. It seeks to build biologically diverse agricultural systems, replenish and maintain soil fertility, and promote a healthy environment. Further market development through greater consumer awareness and scaling up production to meet increasing market demands are the next chapters in the organic cotton story.

References


� Allen Woodburn Associates Ltd. /Managing Resources Ltd., "Cotton: The Crop and its Agrochemicals Market," 1995.

� American Crop Protection Association, "1997 Total U. S. Sales by Crop Protection Product Type and Market," 1998 ACPA Industry Profile.

� California Department of Pesticide Regulation, "DPR Releases Data on 1999 Pesticide Injuries," 2001.

� Sustainable Cotton Project, "Cleaner Cotton Campaign Tool Kit," Oroville, CA.

� U. S. Department of Agriculture, "Agricultural Chemical Usage: 2003 Field Crop Summary."

� U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, "List of Chemicals Evaluated for Carcinogenic Potential," 2001.

� Organic Trade Association. 2003. 2003 Beltwide Presentation, Organic Cotton: Production and Marketing Trends in the United States and Canada - 2001 and 2002.

� Organic Trade Association. 2004. 2003 U.S. Organic Cotton Production & the Impact of the National Organic Program on Organic Cotton Farming.

� http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/cotton.html

� Organic Consumers Association "Fact Sheet on U.S. Cotton Subsidies and Cotton Production"

� http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/organic_cotton.html

� http://www.pan-germany.net/baumwolle/en/hintergrund.htm

� http://www.icac.org/cotton_info/tis/organic_cotton/documents/english.html

� www.organiccottonalts.com

� http://www.i-sis.org.uk/OCBBCI.php


About the author:

I am doing PG Diploma in Home Textile Management.i did my Diploma in Textile Technology & B.Tech in Textile Technology from PSG College of Technology & Polytechnic College. After my diploma I worked as a Production & maintenance Supervisor in Cambodia Mills (NTC) Coimbatore, after three years of experience I came back to my B.Tech.I did 17 paper presented in various technical symposiums, national & international confrences in all over india and i participated in various technical workshops & innovative project works. I published several articles in journals,magazines.


Area of Interest: innovative textiles, Technical textiles

Coimbatore-641 004, Email: dgk_psgtech@yahoo.co.in


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