What is Organic Cotton and is it Better than Conventional Cotton?

We often hear the term ‘organic’ associated with eco-friendly products. But how does a commodity as trivial yet essential as ‘cotton’ be organic or non-organic? Isn’t it grown on plants? And cotton isn’t like plastic that takes millions of years to degrade. Then what makes it non-organic?

In simple terms, organic cotton is the cotton that is grown with techniques and materials which have a low impact on the environment. It is grown without using synthetic chemicals, apart from the ones approved by the standards of organic agriculture.

On the other hand, non-organic cotton is grown with the use of synthetic fertilisers that are not only harmful to the environment but also dangerous for the farmers that are involved in the process.

But this is not all. There are other factors too that differentiate the two. Here’s a table of comparison to understand better.

Now that we have a clear idea of what is organic cotton, let’s move towards the bigger question- is organic cotton better than conventional cotton? YES! Of course, it is! The answer might seem too direct and straight. Here are some (only some out of the many) facts and stats to back the statement up.
 Organic cotton produces 978kg of CO2 emission per tonne of cotton fibre, a 46% reduction in global warming potential compared to non-organic cotton.
There is also a massive 91% reduction in water consumption – only 180 cubic metres of blue water is consumed per tonne of organic cotton, compared to 2,120 cubic metres in conventional cotton.
Cotton comprises the World’s 2.5% of cultivated land and utilises the World’s 10-16% of pesticides, higher than any other individual crop.
 In 2015, India saw 7,672 cases of farmers accidentally poisoned by pesticides. Every year there are about 10,000 reported cases of textile poisoning in India alone.
With non-organic farming, 2,700 litres of water is consumed to produce the amount of cotton required to make a single cotton T-shirt.
In 1995, pesticide-contaminated runoff from cotton fields in Alabama killed 240,000 fish, and current estimates suggest that pesticides unintentionally kill 67 million birds each year.
 Most pests develop an immunity to these products in 5-6 years, forcing companies to produce stronger chemicals. The stronger the chemical, the more hazardous it becomes for the farmers and their families.
As frightening as these facts and stats are, we must not forget that they are a result of our collective habits. If unknowingly we can cause such a massive impact on our environment, imagine the difference we could make if we intend to! Here is something to uplift the mood : In 2015 alone, by growing organic instead of conventional cotton, farmers potentially saved – To conclude, going organic or sustainable is the only way forward.