Organic vs Non-organic Cotton Farming

Throughout most of human history, all farming, cotton and otherwise, was basically organic by default. There were no synthetic pesticides or insecticides. That changed with the World Wars and the first large-scale deployment of chemicals specifically formulated to eradicate life.

The descendants of these deadly chemicals were later applied to farming.

In the case of cotton, this is part of a war on weeds and pests that attack cotton. And, just as in any other war, many innocent bystanders, including plants, animals, and humans, are wounded and killed — a tragedy that continues to this day.

Did You Know?Organic crops are grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All items sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the crop is grown, e.g. cotton, and how the animal is raised, e.g. wool.Non-organic cotton consumes approximately 25% of the insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants) used in the world. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Non-organic farming devours roughly a third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to produce enough cotton for a single t-shirt.Pesticides used in non-organic farming can enter the human food chain. Because cotton is grown primarily for its fiber, it is regulated as a non-food crop.

In fact, the majority of the cotton plant in the form of cottonseed, approximately 60% by weight, ends up in our food supply. Cottonseed is used to make oil that is used in processed foods. Beef and dairy cows are fed cotton straw, cottonseed meal, and waste from cotton gins.Organic cotton provides all the quality and texture you’ve come to expect from cotton products.The production of cotton has a huge impact on the world we live in and raise our children.Organic cotton feels good on your skin – and great on your conscience.So, what is Organic? Here’s a quick way to understand the vast differences between non-organic (conventional) cotton farming and Organic cotton farming. It applies to all Organic farming practices including Organic food, Organic fiber, Organic tea, and Organic gardening.

Seed Preparation

Typically treats seeds with FUNGICIDES or INSECTICIDESUses UNTREATED seeds.
Uses GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seeds for approximately 70% of US-grown cotton.NEVER USES GMO seeds.

Soil & Water

Applies SYNTHETIC fertilizers
 Builds strong soil through CROP ROTATION
Loss of soil due to predominantly MONO-CROP culture
 Retains water more efficiently due to increased ORGANIC MATTER in the soil.

Weed Control

Applies HERBICIDES to soil to inhibit weed germination
 PHYSICAL removal rather than chemical destruction
Repeatedly uses HERBICIDES to kill weeds
 Controls weeds through cultivation and HAND HOEING

Pest Control

Uses INSECTICIDES heavily, accounting for approximately 25% of world consumption.
 Maintains a BALANCE between “pests” and their natural predators through healthy soil.
Uses PESTICIDES heavily, accounting for approximatly 10% of world consumption. The nine most common are highly toxic; five are probable carcinogens.
 Uses BENEFICIAL INSECTS, biological and cultural practices to control pests.
Frequently uses AERIAL SPRAYING, with potential drift onto farm workers, neighboring wildlife and communities.
 May use TRAP CROPS, planted to lure insects away from the cotton.


Defoliates with toxic CHEMICALS.
 Relies mostly on the seasonal FREEZE for defoliation.
 May stimulate defoliation through WATER management.

Some source Material from:
which also relied on information from these organizations:
Organic Trade Association
Organic Exchange
Sustainable Cotton Project

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