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Why Is It Impossible to Find an Organic Cotton Bra?

Why Is It Impossible to Find an Organic Cotton Bra?
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Written by April Dávila for the Earth Island Journal

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.

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Photo from origamidon via flickr creative commons

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8:10AM PDT on Aug 21, 2012

Your kidding right? Your "Monsanto hiatus is officially over..." Wtf? I've started shopping sales diligently to get more organic clothing. It might take time but I'm taking more than just a hiatus. I'm ridding them from my life as best I can.

6:13AM PST on Dec 2, 2011

I buy all organic food and enjoyed reading the article. However, it is a fact that all farmers use water and no, it's not filtered. That means that everything contains pesticides, heavy metals and all other pollutants, to varying degrees. All I can do is hope that it's less than non organic produce, meat, etc.

7:40PM PDT on Nov 4, 2011


8:07AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

For really pretty, organic bras try FaeriesDance. They have a huge selection in their intimates section.

10:10AM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

Organic or not, cotton is the fiber that needs the most pesticides to produce a crop, therefore the most important to buy organic. BUT, and this really is a HUGE but, cotton also needs the most water too. This is ridiculous since there are other sources that provide nice materials, if we could only have access to them. Hemp, for one, doesn't need any pesticides and uses way less water. Sure that hemp dog leash won't last as long as the nylon one, but neither would a cotton one. We need to get our politicians to legalize hemp growing in this country.

1:54AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Cool and interesting article. Thx.

3:22PM PDT on Sep 20, 2011

I stopped reading Laure H.'s message mid-sentence and ran to de-bra myself. Good thing I work at home!

Thanks for the info. I'll share on FB immediately.

9:19AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

I bought an organic cotton top at Walmart once....just to say "attaboy, now you are getting it."

It shrank after the first cold wash, changed shape, and became unwearable for anyone who isn't into showing their belly button (me).


I try to go bra-less for at least 12 hours a day - helps keep the lymphatic system moving, decreasing the risk of breast cancer. Read about that in "Dressed to Kill," if you haven't done so already.


If we keep asking for nice, soft, organic cotton bras - writing and writing to companies, asking at stores - it will happen. If you build the demand, they will come.

8:33AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

Jane R, there is indeed organic cotton being grown in the U.S.A. My cotton nightgown was grown organically in my own state, a joint venture between farmer and seamstress/designer who markets here wares via her website and by traveling to events where she holds store throughout the year. She picks up her organically grown crop from the farmer, takes it to be milled and then preshrinks it before cutting the patterns (fancy that) and sews everything beautifully, using flat-felled seams.

Yes, I paid a lot (about $70 USD) for my lovely, voluminous organic cotton night gown (and I could wear it as a costume if I wanted to). This new gown is only 2 years old so far, but it should last a long time if my last nice night-gown is anything to go is 26 years old and counting (just needs some repair on the trim). I've flirted with synthetic fiber lingerie from time to time over the years, but I keep going back to the breathable wonder of, organic cotton. The per-use cost on the first one was fantastic....I can't remember the cost, so I think it might have been a wedding shower gift, but for 26 years of enjoyable use, it would have had to cost a fortune to be considered extravagant.

12:22AM PDT on Sep 19, 2011


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