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Jun 30, 2008
Focus: Consumer Rights
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Location: Australia

Cotton Farms, Pesticides and Health + Quiz 

Try this quiz, then check your answers in the passage following:

  1. The biggest and 2nd biggest producers of cotton in the world are:
    1. China and India
    2. America and Egypt
    3. China and America
    4. Fiji and Australia
  2. Cotton workers exposed to pesticides can get:
    1. cancer
    2. neurological and visual disorders
    3. chromosomal abberations, cell death and cell cycle delay
    4. all of these
  3. Decide which of the following statements about cotton are true for today:
    1. Cotton is widely used as livestock feed
    2. Cotton is used in food products e.g. crackers, salad dressing
    3. "Monoculture" of cotton crops has caused the crop to be vulnerable to pests and diseases
    4. Californian cotton farms don't use any carcinogenic pesticides.
  4. Pesticides and Human Health

    • In California, five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton are cancer-causing chemicals (cyanazine, dicofol, naled, propargite and trifluralin).
    • In Egypt, more than 50% of cotton workers in the 1990s suffered symptoms of chronic pesticide poisoning, including neurological and vision disorders.
    • In India, 91% of male cotton workers exposed to pesticides eight hours or more per day experienced some type of health disorder, including chromosomal aberrations, cell death and cell cycle delay.
    • In the US, a 1987 National Cancer Institute Study found a nearly seven-fold higher risk of leukemia for children whose parents used pesticides in their homes or gardens.
    • The World Health Organization estimates that at least three million people are poisoned by pesticides every year and 20-40,000 more are killed.
    • Over 1 million Americans will learn they have some form of cancer and 10,400 people in the U.S. die each year from cancer related to pesticides

      Clothes for a Change: Background Info

      Cotton, which is native to Southern Africa and South America, is grown on over 90 million acres in more than 80 countries worldwide. The millions of tons of cotton produced each year account for 50% of the world's fibre needs (wool, silk and flax together account for 10%) and is widely used as livestock feed and in food products such as salad dressing and crackers.

      The United States is the second largest cotton producer in the world after China. In 1997, approximately 19 million bales (enough to make 9 billion T-shirts) were grown in 18 states.

      Cotton and the Environment

      Despite cotton's image as being a natural and pure fibre, conventional cotton farming takes an enormous toll on the air, water, soil and people who live in cotton growing areas.

      In the United States, 1/3 (lb) pound of agricultural chemicals are typically used in the production of a single cotton T-shirt.

      The growth of Industrial agriculture and consolidation in the seed industry has replaced hundreds of cotton varieties with only a handful. The practice of planting thousands of acres all of the same variety is known as monoculture and has left the crop extremely vulnerable to pests and diseases and forced cotton farmers onto what is known as the "chemical treadmill."

      How Do They Do It? - Organic Cotton Farmers

      The soil: Organic Farming starts with a healthy soil. The soil is seen as a living system and not simply a growing medium for plants.
      Read more here.

      Weed Control: Organic Farmers have many options to control weeds including:

      1. crop rotations,
      2. planting several crops together (intercropping),
      3. more efficient use of irrigation water,
      4. and more, read here.

      Pest Control: By encouraging biological diversity... read more here

      • In Peru, cotton farmers have saved over $100 per acre in pesticide and fertilizer costs by switching over to organic production.
      • In Tanzania organic cotton farmers plant sunflowers to encourage beneficial ants that feed on the larvae of the bollworm, and fertilize the soil with manure from their cattle.
      • In India, organic farmers intercrop cotton with pigeon peas and make insecticidal sprays from garlic, chili and the neem tree.
      • In California, organic cotton farmers plant habitat strips of vegetation such as alfalfa near their fields as a refuge for beneficial insects

      Click here for the original Care2 Organic Consumers Association article

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Posted: Jun 30, 2008 8:36pm


Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.


Jenny Dooley
, 3, 2 children
Eastlakes, SW, Australia
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