We have been asked before “why do you use organic cotton? Why not just use standard cotton? It’s biodegradable isn’t it?” The short answer is yes, it is biodegradable, but the whole journey to get to that point is fraught with chemicals and pesticides. It is very important to us that our customers have access to truly ecologically friendly products, products that do as little harm as possible to the environment coming out of the earth as well as going back in.
In order to explain the damages caused by conventional cotton farming practices we asked our suppliers to allow us to share this comprehensive blog with you. Organature is an Australia based company who imports the highly ethical organic cotton we use in our burial shrouds and accessories. It is such high quality fabric we use it in nearly every product on our site!
Thank you Organature!
WHY WE DON’T USE AUSTRALIAN COTTON:
PETER (the Founder of Organature®) answers this question by saying:
“We don’t use Australian cotton because cotton grown here is NOT grown from Certified Organic seeds. Australian cotton has no organic certification. Australian cotton is grown from genetically modified seeds created by a chemical company. Australian grown cotton is sprayed and fertilized with chemicals during the growing season and defoliated with chemicals before picking using machines that create pollution. Organature would like to use Australian grown cotton but CAN ONLY USE IT IF it is grown from non-modified seeds, no harmful chemicals are used to grow and process the cotton and it has Organic Certification under GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards).”
We manufacture to higher than Organic Certification Standards and cater especially to customers who care about their own health, the health of their newborn babies, young children, anyone already experiencing bouts of un-wellness, those diagnosed with illnesses, and to the many people who are determined to reduce their exposure to chemicals in as many ways as possible. As a result of our own experiences in overcoming Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (M.C.S.) we have found Certified Organic Cotton to be the safest, most durable and best fibre currently available.
WHAT IS ORGANIC COTTON?
Cotton grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or synthetic chemicals is considered ‘organic cotton’. Some organic cotton growers may use natural crop management and protection tools such as sulphur dust, citric acid, nitrogen, and zinc sulphate (Source: ICAC, 2006). Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment (including the use of natural rainfall and non-irrigated methods of watering). Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility and build biologically diverse agriculture. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming (Source: organiccottonplus.com, 2019)
As of September 2019, there are no organic cotton growers left in Australia. Because of our fluctuating climate, lack of water in most suitable growing regions and for various other reasons, growing Organic Cotton in Australia currently appears to be commercially unfeasible.
According to the Australian Government (ORTR.GOV.AU), a report from Feb 14th 2018 states that more than 99.5% of the Australian cotton crop is now genetically modified (GM).
While at Organature, we won’t use genetically modified (GM) Cotton BECAUSE it is not pure, may increase health risks and cannot be certified organic, GM may not be as bad as you think it is!
WHAT MAKES GROWING COTTON IN AUSTRALIA SO PROBLEMATIC?
THE NEED FOR ENOUGH WATER: Cotton is only planted when sufficient water is made available from rivers and groundwater sources through government regulated water licensing schemes. When there’s no water, there’s no cotton. Cotton’s average irrigation requirement is 7.8 megalitres per hectare. This compares to rice (12.6ML/ha), fruit and nut trees (5.6 ML/ha) and cut flowers and turf (4.9 ML/ha). (Source: cottonaustralia.com.au, 2019). The ongoing/intermittent drought throughout much of N.S.W. and Queensland where cotton is usually commercially grown, has reduced the viability of planting out many of these crops in the first place.
THE NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE ACCESS TO WATER: The controversy surrounding water usage in the Murray-Darling Basin (where about 90% of all Australian cotton is grown), the cost of irrigation and the environmental impact from the irrigation methods currently implemented is well documented, with one of the most seemingly unbiased reports I found here, published by The Australian Edition of The Guardian Newspaper.
THE NEED TO CONTROL INSECT PESTS: According to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, until the introduction of genetically modified (GM) cotton, the main insect pests of cotton were the larvae of Helicoverpa armigera and H. punctigera. These caterpillars had the potential to devastate cotton crops and were generally controlled with synthetic insecticides, which also controlled the majority of other cotton pests. To reduce the need for these synthetic sprays and to assist farmers produce better returns, the CSIRO partnered with Monsanto to breed cotton varieties suited to different regions in Australia. One of those varieties is Bollguard II. It contains two genes from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Those genes produce proteins in the cotton leaves, killing the caterpillars of cotton’s biggest pest. Because of this, Australian Cotton (while it is genetically modified), now has some of the highest yields in the world.
THE NEED TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF OTHER PESTS: To make cotton growing in Australia even more challenging, a recent report on the ABC’s landline also listed Wild Pigs as being a new and significant threat to cotton crops in Northern N.S.W. and South East Queensland. One landholder reportedly spent half a million dollars in fencing to keep the pigs off his crops. Research into other suitable control methods and an attempt to engage all the farmers in a region, is ongoing and presents its own set of challenges again.
WHY IS ORGANIC COTTON NO LONGER GROWN IN AUSTRALIA?
While it might be possible to significantly reduce the use of insecticides and pesticides WITHOUT using GM cotton in Australia, be financially able to fence the land to control the feral pig population from devastating the crops, and use land in our most suitable crop growing regions in periods of reasonable rainfall, organic cotton is a long way from being commercially viable here.
WHERE THEN, CAN QUALITY CERTIFIED ORGANIC COTTON ACTUALLY BE GROWN?
For many years we were working with a mill in Indonesian, but they were no longer able to supply the quality organic cotton we like to use. Peter did not want to take a risk to place an order with a new company without seeing who he was dealing with, so he took a week off to travel to India (including 4 days flying and sitting at airports), but still considered the trip to be a huge success.
The business we are now working with have three mills who all have Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) organic certification. The premises were very clean and Peter detected absolutely no chemical smells. All three mills are in the area where the best quality crops are produced. They have very rich soil and a naturally suitable underground water table, which is a perfect combination to grow organically. This beautiful, clean, environmentally sound and sustainable Organic Cotton is now being used to manufacture our own high quality bed linen, mattresses and organic cotton fabrics and fillings.
GENEVIEVE, (our Organature® Business Manager) sums up the reasons why we don’t use Australian Grown Cotton like this:
– Because Australian Cotton is grown with pesticides and toxic chemicals, and then further processed with more chemicals.
– Because Australian Cotton uses vast amounts of water to irrigate the crops – Certified Organic Cotton can only be grown in areas that can utilize natural rain water which does not need irrigation.
– Because the cost in Australia to have the cotton processed under organic certification is the biggest problem, and therefore it’s economically not viable for the farmers to grow organically in most regions of Australia, and in our current climate.
– Because some of the largest cotton farms like Cubbie Station (located in south west Queensland near the towns of St George and Dirranbandi, with a huge holding of 93,000 hectares) are owned by Chinese and Japanese interests. So … is it really Australian anyway????
– If we could buy Australian Grown Organic Cotton, we would, without a doubt.
While genetically modified cotton may not be quite as scary as once thought, we care more for our own health and well-being and the health and well-being of our customers. Organature® is PROUD to provide the highest quality Certified Organic Cotton sheets, bathroom towels, baby goods and clothing. produced, manufactured and grown WITHOUT harmful chemicals … with the very best Organic Cotton we can find … and supply direct to the public the purest Chemical-Free Bedding, Bed Linen and Mattresses currently available in Australia today.
Article researched and written by Elizabeth Richardson
(Organature® Website Administrator and Editor)
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