Excerpted from "Cotton, Pesticides and Suicides," by Jitedra Verma, posted in the Earth Island On-line Journal. Verma is a reporter for Down to Earth magazine (Centre for science and environment
"Since the beginning of the new year, not a single day has passed without one cotton farmer committing suicide," says a farmer in Warangal, where almost the entire standing cotton crop has been devastated, placing communities on the brink of starvation. Faced with a raging attack on the cotton crop by Spodoptera litura (tobacco cutworm) and Heliothis armigera (American bollworm), frantic Andhra Pradesh farmers were sitting ducks for pesticide suppliers offering to sell pesticides on credit. But the indiscriminate application of pesticides only led to increased resistance in pests. While pests continued to ravage crops, expenses mounted and the noose tightened.
beneath cotton's natural fiber lies a long chain of chemically-intensive, "unnatural" processes. To bring this delicate plant to harvest, it is heavily sprayed - 8 to 10 times a season - with pesticides so poisonous they gradually render fields barren. And that's just the beginning. To create finished goods, fabrics are often colored with toxic dyes and finished with formaldehyde . Need for organic cotton
Like most technologies, pesticides are not neutral. Yet many people insist that they can behave selectively, wiping out undesirable elements and leaving others unharmed. The list of tragic accidents involving chemicals used on cotton, however, is lengthy. The 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India - which included chemicals used on cotton - speaks to the question of pollution during manufacturing. An estimated 25 million people worldwide are poisoned by pesticides every year, which translates to 48 per minute. It is almost universally agreed that pesticide exposure heightens the risk of cancer.
So much is made of the economic advantages of pesticides by chemical companies interested in sales But little is said of the hidden costs, the contamination of soil and ground water, as well as the negative effects on farmers, farm workers and wildlife. Organic agriculture offers the choice to Because the hidden costs of conventional agriculture will eventually surface
As frightening as it might seem in the face of crop loss, organic farmers maintain a balance of "good" and "bad" bugs. They depend upon beneficial insects to become parasites or predators on the pests that could destroy their cotton. Beneficials can be released in case of infestations, but it's best to have them permanently residing on the farm. Once a farmer applies pesticides to a field, however, beneficials are usually eliminated, triggering the need for repeated spraying throughout the season. One of the organic farmer's friends. A 'Catolaccus grandis' parasitizing a boll weevil larva
Organic food now symbolizes the highest and freshest quality available. Suppliers of organic cotton are not far behind. If we are really concerned about environmental issues today, our ideas of excellent product design must include impact on the earth. Yet so much of this environmental quality might not be immediately visible to the naked eye. We have to see beyond the clothes themselves and look to the landscapes - the air, water, soil and wilderness - where the real differences are made.
Organic farmers use biologically-based rather than chemically-dependent growing systems to raise crops.
Organic farming starts with the soil. Compost, frequent crop rotations and cover crop strategies replace synthetic fertilizers to keep the soil healthy and productive. Fields must be free of synthetically-derived chemicals for three years to achieve organic certification.
Weeds are controlled by innovative farm machinery, hand labor or flame devices rather than herbicide applications.
ORGANIC COTTON CULTIVATION Insect Pests Rather than attempting to eradicate all insects with chemicals, organic farmers cultivate a diversity of natural enemies which prey on insect pests, and lure pests away from cotton by planting trap crops. Insect pests can be effectively kept in balance with well-timed introduction of beneficial insects to fields.
Organic cotton certification INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR ORGANIC AGRICULTURE MOVEMENT [IFOAM] has formulated standards and guidelines for organic cotton cultivation and are followed by many labelling agencies to certify organic cotton and other farm produce.
Merits of organic cotton cultivation Environmentally Friendly Technology Reduction in Cost of Cultivation Management of Insecticide Resistance
INDIAN COTTON India is the third largest producer of cotton Percentage of agriculture land under cotton production in India: 5 per cent (8.9 million hectares) Percentage of total pesticide used for cotton cultivation: 54 per cent cotton makes for 70 per cent of the textile sector's raw material Organic cotton in Indian Organic cotton production in india makes for not even a miniscule percentage of the total cotton production. and while production of insecticide-intentsive cotton farming hits a platuea, organic cotton production is yet to pick up
Organic cotton in India Five to seven decades ago, most of the cotton cultivated in the country was ‘eco-friendly’ with little or no use of toxic chemicals in its production. Even today, there are many pockets in India, where it is produced without the use of agrochemicals, e.g., areas growing Wagad cotton in Gujarat, Y-1 desi areas growing Wagad cotton in Gujarat, Y-1 desi cotton of Khandesh region of Maharashtra, Maljari in Madhya Pradesh, part of areas growing Jayadhar and Suyodhar in Karnataka Nandicum in Andhra Pradesh and parts of cotton areas in north eastern hill region.
Vidarbha organic farmers Association(VOFA 1993 Visit of Envirnmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) Hamburg Germany to Central Cotton Research Institute, (CICR) Nagpur To confirm organic cotton farming in Vidarbha EPEA confirmed organic cotton in Vidarbha EPEA confirmed organic cotton in Vidarbha
1994 Organization of 135 farmers from five districts Nagpur, Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati and Akola
1995 commitment of 12,00 hectares land for organic cotton cultivation
1995 Formation of Vidarbha Organic Farmers Association 1996 Bumper crop of organic cotton
Present status of VOFA 205 Members 90 Practicing organic farmers 3500 Acres area under organic cotton farming Purchaser: Fare Trade Company Japan
Volauntary organizations in organic cotton production VOFA (VIDARBHA ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION), MOFA (MAHARASHTRA ORGANIC FARMERS ASSOCIATION), SHRIDA-BIORE etc. have been formed either by farmers groups interested in organic cotton cultivation or to assist such groups by offering technical assistance. yield level of 500-750 kg/ha. The technological properties of various cultivators grown under the organic cultivation such as micronaire (3.8-5.0), span length (25.5-29.9 mm) and fibre maturity parameters similar to fibres produced by conventional methods
Maikaal bioRe Ltd. Madhya Pradesh Maikaal bioRe Ltd, which claims to be the largest organic cotton venture in the world, in Bheelaon, Madhya Pradesh has over 1,000 farmers involved in organic cotton production The production of organic cotton started in 1991 as a private initiative of Mrigendra Jalan, Managing Director of the spinning mill, Maikaal Fibres Ltd, and
Patrick Hohmann, Managing Director of the Swiss cotton yarn trading company, Remei AG
Organic cotton production in India 14-15 lakh bales of uncertified organc cotton (Cotton corporation of India) Estimated certified organic cotton 1000 Total world production 8150 15% of total world production 37% Asian countries production