Conventional cotton isn’t “The Fabric of Our Lives,” though industry group America’s Cotton Producers and Importers have spent big bucks to make us think this is the case.
Wait a sec! Cotton is a natural material. What could be dirty about that? When you take a look at conventional cotton’s social and environmental impacts, this 100 percent natural fiber starts to feel like not such a natural choice. Let’s talk about some of the problems with conventional along with some much more ethical alternatives.
Cotton’s environmental issues are probably the most common problem that consumers know about. Conventional cotton is a very water- and pesticide-intensive crop. A full 16 percent of the pesticides sprayed worldwide are sprayed onto cotton crops. Of course, those poisons don’t stay on the plant. When farmers water or when it rains, those pesticides wash into the soil and into rivers and streams, where they pollute waterways and damage fragile ecosystems.
All of those chemicals are also terrible for cotton workers. Check out the video at the top of the page for more on how pesticides harm cotton farmers.
In Uzbekistan, pesticides have decimated the environment and are causing widespread cancer and tuberculosis among populations there. This video from Earth Justice Foundation gets into more details about how cotton production is hurting the land and people in Uzbekistan.
Pesticides aren’t the only part of cotton production that’s bad for farmers. On the next page, read about how Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton destroyed the lives of so many Indian farmers.