Cotton is an incredibly valuable crop worldwide, used not just for clothes but a vast array of products and in industrial processes. Its value to the human race cannot be underestimated and it is cultivated on a vast scale. But with this scale of cultivation comes big environmental and social problems.
Non-organic cotton consumes vast amounts of water and, whilst occupying just 2.5% of the world's agricultural land, uses 11% of all pesticides and 25% of all insecticides (all of which also require vast quantities of oil). Much cotton is now Genetically Modified (GM) and it is impossible to tell what cotton is not GM - unless it's certified organic.
There are many social injustices surrounding cotton production and processing, from very low wages to pesticide poisoning. Read more here.
Organic cultivation avoids the use of all agro chemicals, using natural methods of building soil fertility and weed, pest and disease control. There is much organic cotton in existence now and its popularity is growing rapidly. Read more about organic cotton here. Organic cotton must be certified, so look out for these symbols:
Fairtrade products ensure that the people who produce, pick, clean, pack and spin the cotton in to products get paid a fair wage for their work. The Fairtrade Foundation certifies such operations and its symbol looks like this:
Here are some supplier of fairtrade organic cotton clothes and bags:
Bishopston Trading Co