Organic cotton

  • The term ‘organic’ refers to food and fibre farming and production methods that are managed in accordance with organic standards (Source: Australian Certified Organic, 2014) and is grown using seeds that are not genetically modified
  • In 2010 organic cotton produced worldwide amounted to a little over 1% of total cotton grown (Source: ICAC 2011)
  • In 2012-13, the largest organic cotton producers by volume were India, China and Turkey, Tanzania and the United States (Source: Textile Exchange, 2014)
  • In most countries where organic cotton is grown, conventional  and genetically modified cotton crops co-exists
  • Cotton grown without the use of synthetic chemicals is considered ‘organic cotton’. Some organic cotton growers may use natural crop management and protection tools such as sulphur dust, citric acid, nitrogen, and zinc sulphate (Source: ICAC, 2006)
  • It can take more than three years for a farm to receive organic certification
  • Organic cotton farms can attract more pests (Source: University of California, 2006) compared to transgenic or genetically modified cotton crops that have in-built tolerance to some pests
  • Most organic standards take a number of factors into consideration, including water and irrigation, soil, air, seeds, machinery, and pest/weed control (Source: NASAA, 2004)
  • Organic production typically requires more human labour, land and cost input than conventional production (source: European Union, 2014 and ICAC, 2006)
  • A six-year study of three cotton growing methods found that organic cotton records lower yields than conventional cotton growing methods (source: University of California, 2006)
  • Some organic certification processes are conducted from field to fabric, and may include ginning and manufacturing
  • In some cases, organic cotton is processed using the same dyes, fabrication and finishes as conventional cotton (unless stated on the product label)
  • In Australia, more than half a dozen organisations manage organic certification systems
  • Consumers can find organic cotton in a range of everyday items ranging from make-up removal pads and cotton earbuds, to denim and baby clothing
  • Products labelled ‘organic’ may contain varying percentages of organic cotton
  • A small number of Australian cotton growers have experimented with organic cotton in the past, but a number of factors have prohibited it from entering long-term commercial production in Australia
  • In 1993/94 for example, approximately 700 hectares of organic cotton was grown in Australia under irrigated conditions at a higher cost but with a low yield level of 685 kg/ha. Yield was low mainly due to high insect damage and such a low yield level is not economically sustainable under the highly mechanised… system in Australia.” (source: ICAC, 1994)

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