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 350 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
Organic cotton India conventional cotton India Organic cotton World production
SUSTAINABLE COTTON PROJECT California's Central Valley
NATURALLY COLOURED COTTON COTTON THAT GROWS WITH NATURAL COLOURS DURING CULTIVATION BOTH WHITE AND COLOURED COTTONS KNOWN SINCE TIME IMEMORIAL IN INDIA
NON POPULARITY OF COLOURED COTTON LOW YIELD SEED AVAILABILITY LOW FINENESS, LOW STAPLE LENGTH LOW STRENGTH POOR SPINNABILITY LOW YARN AND FABRIC QUALITY LIMITED COLOUR RANGE CONTAMINATION OF WHITE COTTON
ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION WAVE IMPETUS TO THE CULTIVATION OF NATURALLY COLOURED COTTON SHADES PISTA GREEN AND ALMOND BROWN MOST COMMON OTHER SHADES CREAM PINK MAUVE COUNTRIES INDIA USA ISRAEL CHINA PERU
IMPORTANT ASPECTS EARLIER LOW FIBRE LENGTH, POOR SPINNABILITY YARN SPINNING OF 10 TO 12s COUNT RESEARCH INPUTS IMPROVED FIBRE QUALITY POSSIBLE TO SPIN YARNS OF 30 AND 40s COUNT SUITABLE FOR WEAVING AND KNITTING IMPORTANT OBSERVATIONS GREEN VARIETY TURNS BROWN IF NOT HARVESTED ON RIPENING BROWN VARIETY DARKENS WITH AGE AND EXPOSURE TO LIGHT GREEN AND BRWON DARKEN ON LAUNDERING NOT FAST TO BLEACHING
COTTON CORPORATION OF INDIA AND CENTRAL COTTON RESEARCH INSTITUTE NAGPUR 1996-97 INVESTMENT Rs. 80 LAKHS CULTIVATION OF COLOURED COTTON AT KHANDWA, MADHYA PRADESH DHARWAD, KARNATAKA PROJECT DID NOT SUCEED DUE TO POOR MARKET RESPONSE DEMAND OF HIGH PRICE BY FARMERS MAJOR PROBLEM CONTAMINATION OF WHITE COTTO FIELDS NECESSARY TO HAVE SEPARATE AREA FOR COLOUR COTTON CULTIVATION
MEANS TO OVERCOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS LOW STRENGTH AND POOR SPINNABILITY BLENDING 30-50% OF WHITE COTTON WITH COLOURED COTTON CHANGE OF SHADE ON LAUNDERING ON LAUNDERING SHADE BECOMES DEEPER ALKALINE SCOURING STABILIZES THE SHADE CHANGE POOR BLEACHING FASTNESS DO NOT BLEACH
Dr. B.M. Khadi at the University of Agriculture Science Dharwad developed Brown, Green and cream coloured cotton Seeds available for cultivation Till 1960 coloured cotton grown in some parts of India was exported to Japan Coloured cotton is insect and desease resistant and also drought tolerent Innovation failed to take market place
The Cottton Project at the college of agriculture, Khandwa is engaged in research to boost the production and productivity of coloured cotton In 1996, the centre has been successful in developing a variety of cotton which produces seed cotton having natural almond brown colour (JCC-1). There is a vast scope in this direction as such a genotypes will avoid the use of synthetic dyes the demand of organically grown cotton is increasing very fast. Some more colours are being developed
Rocklea spinning Mills in collaboration with Australian farmers introduced range of yarns from brown and green varieties of cotton Blending of coloured cotton with white cotton in diffferent proporations produce shade varieties Australia
In Australia, Jeff & Marilyn Bidstrup, pioneered Australian coloured cotton, When blended, this cotton produces a beautiful "Sand Dune" colour, ideal for our first EcoDownUnder towels. The Bidstrups are leading the industry with Landcare Australia awards and minimising their impact on the environment through "dry land farming" rather than irrigating. Environmental management by rotating cotton crops every 3 seasons and no harsh chemicals applied to their land for over 3 years has seen yields become some of the highest in the industry.
COMMENCED IN 1984 TO DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY TO SUPPORT INDIGENOUS FARMERS AND TRADITIONAL ARTISANS
15000 FARDMERS CULTIVATE COLOURED COTTON
50000 WOMEN INVOLVED IN TRADITIONAL HAND SPINNING AND HAND WEAVING
COLOURED COTTON IS PRODUCED WITHOUT THE USE OF SYNTHETIC FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES
COTTON PLANT GROWS UP TO 5 METERS HIGH
YIELD 10 KG PER PLANT
REMARKABLY RESISTANT TO PEST AND DISEASES
THRIVES IN MARGINAL SOILS WITH LITTLE OR NO RAIN FALL
PRE-HISPANIC GRAVE in the Chancay Valley of Peru is heaped with naturally colored cotton bolls. The ancient people of this coastal area filled the body of the deceased with the cotton, which would absorb the bodily fluids, thereby aiding in the process of mummification. The arid sands of the region preserved the cotton (which was removed from the body when this grave was looted.)
SIX PRINCIPLE COLOUR VARIETIES CREAM Pista green MEDIUM BROWN REDDISH BROWN CHOCOLATE BROWN MAUVE Brown verities possess anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties COFFEE FILTERS MADE FROM CERTIFIED ORGANIC COLOURED COTTON FREE FROM PESTIFCIDES, BLEACHES AND SYNTHETIC COLOURS Natural coloured yarns and fabrics are certified by SKAL, Dutch certifying agency
PERUVIAN TAPESTRY from A.D. 1000 depicts a cotton plant complete with roots, leaves, stems, flowers and ripening cotton bolls spilling forth with naturally pigmented cotton Four species of cotton have different lint lengths. COTTON HARVESTING is done by hand in Peru
Women then sort the cotton, also by hand, for color and quality. Traditional spinning bowl LINT FIBER greatly enlarged reveals the natural twist The dark masses impart the natural color.
Coloured cotton bolls are hand picked Small quantity is used for craft production and domestic consumption in rural market. Large quantity is consumed in uraban market as textile products Medical remedy for over fifty somatic and psychosomatic disorders Colour cotton cultivation by traditional farmers is officially protected Large number of traditional farmers are immensely benefited No patents are held on native colored cotton, respecting and promoting the crop protection rights of the indigenous people of Peru.
Today Indian descendants of ancient Peruvian cultures still harvest, gin and spin by hand the natural colored cottons of Peru.
COTTON CLOTHES in naturally occurring colors are produced in Peru
Sally Fox was introduced to colored cotton while working for a cotton breeder, whose focus was developing pest-resistant strains of cotton. The peoples of Central and South America had spun these strains for centuries, but the fiber qualities were not sufficient for modern machine spinning. Here was Sally Fox’s opportunity to combine her concern for the environment, work in her field of entomology, and practice her favorite pastime, spinning and weaving
Sally Fox in 1982 took on the challenge of improving an ancient agricultural art. Fox successfully bred and marketed varieties of naturally coloured cotton she calls FoxFiber ®. Today, Sally Fox designs fabrics with her cotton and continues research. Fox has received a patent and three Plant Variety Protection Certificates for her naturally colored cottons which, in addition to browns, she now grows in reds and greens. Her invention has been so popular it has sprouted two successful companies -- Vreseis, Ltd. and Natural Cotton Colours, both operating in Arizona.
Natural qualities found in Fox Fibre: Furnish lasting color; repeated washings intensify colors bringing out the warm and rich color tones Enable our cottons to be spun from 100% solid color to any percentage of color blends. Blends of Fox Fibre colors (with each other or with white) can create all of the color shades within the beige, khaki, brown, red brown, dark brown, and green color spectrums Provide a fire retardant tendency Eliminate the need for bleaches, dyes, & other costly processes during textile and product manufacturing
Sally Fox is associted with Athena Mills Arizona Athena Mills is recognized as a leader for two environmentally descriptive trademarks - Colorganic® and Colour-By-Nature®. Both marks ensure the final product's color is from naturally colored cotton. Colorganic additionally ensures certified organic growing practices for all of the cotton fibers in the final product. Fox Fibre offers consumers an ecological alternative in cotton: today's purchase for tomorrow's environment
ECO LABELS Eco-labels are product labels that inform consumers about the environmental impact of a product. They encourage producers to switch to environmentally sound production process methods (PPMs) for advantage in the marketplace. Eco-labels allow producers to differentiate their products from products that are less environmentally friendly and thus to reach environmentally conscious consumers.
ECO LABEL CRITERIA ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLINESS OF THE ENTIRE LIFE CYCLE OF THE PRODUCT CRADLE TO GRAVE ASSESSMENT 1. Production of raw materials 2. Production of the end product 3. Packaging and transport of raw materials and the finished product 4. Use of the product by companies and consumers 5. Disposal of the product e.g. assessment of a T-shirt starts in the cotton field and ends in the incineration plant .
Republic of China–Taiwan Green Mark Thailand (Thai Green Label Korea Environmental Labelling Japan Eco Mark India Eco Mark Australia/New Zealand Environmental Choice European Union Eco-label “Flower” scheme
Nordic Countries (Nordic Swan ) Austrian Eco-label Croatia (Environmental Label ) Netherland Ecolabel Foundation