When we get dressed morning, most of us probably don’t think much about the biotech giant Monsanto. But chances are that much of what you are wearing was created in one of the company’s top-secret labs: More than 70 percent of the cotton grown in the United States is a Monsanto-developed, genetically engineered product, and nearly 90 percent of the cotton grown in India (a fiber powerhouse) is genetically modified, much of it by Monsanto.
Farmers’ initial embrace of GMO seeds is starting to turn into a backlash. Here in the US, an increasing number of growers complain that reliance on GMO Roundup-Ready seeds have led the evolution of “superweeds.” And in India, poor farmers’ reliance on GM seeds has increased farmer debt, pushing many to the brink of despair and contributing to a horrific epidemic of farmer suicides that you might have read about here or here.
Shocked by the reports of Indian cotton farmers committing suicide and also concerned about how GM seeds reduce biodiversity and could lead to even more pesticide use, I wondered what it would take to end my financial support of Monsanto’s cotton wares. Like other consumers, I wondered if there were any alternatives. So as an experiment in compassionate shopping, I committed to avoiding Monsanto fibers for one whole month.
To prepare for this impulsive endeavor I was forced to set aside my usual aversion to shopping to track down two pairs of affordable organic cotton pants, two organic cotton shirts, two pairs of organic cotton panties, and a pair of hemp sneakers. (Because the US organic standards prohibit GMOs, buying organic would automatically make my clothing free of the Monsanto taint.) It wasn’t an exciting wardrobe, but fashion be damned — this was an experiment of the most passionately informal kind. But there was one thing I couldn’t seem to find, and simply would not go without: a bra. It seemed like I had more shopping to do.
I called up my good friend Miranda Valentine, who works as a fashion writer and stylist, and who always has energy for shopping. We agreed to meet in Venice Beach, where my online research had turned up three organic clothing boutiques. I circled each of the stores on a map. It like a military mission: Operation Organic Bra.
Photo from origamidon via flickr creative commons
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