To see the whole picture of why organic cotton is safer and better for all of us, it's important to understand how conventional cotton is grown and produced.
Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop and epitomizes the worst effects of chemically dependent agriculture. Each year cotton producers around the world use nearly £1.6 billion ($2.6 billion) worth of pesticides – more than 10% of the world's pesticides and nearly 26% of the world's insecticides.
Alarmingly, in many countries, children are employed in a variety of tasks from cottonseed production, to pesticide spraying and the annual cotton harvest. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, the industry relies on a high level of forced child labour – a clear contravention of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour.1
Conventional cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides including aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan, broad spectrum organophosphates – pesticides originally developed as toxic nerve agents during World War II – as well as using toxic defoliants prior to harvesting. Even when used according to instructions, they seriously harm people, wildlife and the environment, poisoning farm workers and children, causing chemical drift into neighbouring communities, contaminating ground and surface water and killing soil micro-organisms, bees and other beneficial insects.
Sprayed herbicides and pesticides are highly mobile and are now found at the South and North Poles and all the world's oceans. They do not degenerate and will remain in the soil, air and water for very long periods of time. The by-products, Dioxins and Furans, accumulate in the food chain, eventually ending up concentrated in the fatty tissues of animals even 20-30 years after exposure.
Pesticides kill 67 million birds each year in the USA alone and many more are suspected. The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 3 million people are poisoned by pesticides every year and 20-40,000 are killed, adding that the risks of dioxin to health and environment includes cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and liver damage. Pesticides have been linked to infertility, suicidal depression and the most horrific birth defects imaginable. In addition, over 50% of conventional cotton grown worldwide is genetically modified.
how is organic cotton different?
Growing sustainable, organic cotton allows farmers to move away from chemical dependence to more biological sound farming. Organic agriculture does not permit the use of genetically modified cotton or any toxic and persistent pesticides, using instead composted manures and cover crops to replace synthetic fertilizers; innovative weeding strategies are used instead of herbicides; beneficial insects and trap crops control insect pests, and alternatives to toxic defoliants prepare plants for harvest.
Organic farming helps prevent topsoil erosion, improves soil fertility, protects groundwater and conserves energy, as well as protecting the health of children and women, who are often the key workers on cotton farms.
why choose organic cotton?
Because there are immediate benefits for you and our environment, and enormous benefits for the growers of organic cotton, many of whom are women. By engaging in organic agriculture, women gain their own income, and as they are responsible for the education of their children, this independent income is important. In the conventional cotton sector, women have no independence as they must buy and sell through a male, so your choice of buying organic empowers other women too.
A study,sponsored by the FDA office of Women's Health, published in 2005, found detectable levels of dioxins in 7 brands of tampons. Just a few parts per trillion in body fat cause serious health effects. Even low levels of dioxin give cause for concern because tampons come into contact with some of the most absorbent tissue in the body. Natracare certified organic cotton tampons were tested and found not to contain any dioxin residuals.
Natracare has held continuous organic certification for all Natracare tampons since 1996, a certification process that has a chain of custody which inspects all the processes involved to make our products, including inspecting the organic cotton grown on the farm, the organic processing of the cotton, and finally the manufacture of the Natracare tampons and the organic cotton nonwovens we use in Natracare ultra pads, panty liners and wipes.
Natracare is certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and is independently inspected every year to check that we conform to those standards. Natracare uses fully certified organic cotton because we believe it to be a safer and more ethical choice.