Organic Cotton

Cotton is the huge pesticide-consuming crop in the world. Conventional cotton farming involves use of synthetic chemicals that seriously harm the environment, farm communities and workers. It takes about nine ounces of cotton to make one T-shirt, and to make these nine ounces, an average of 17 teaspoons of synthetic fertilizers are used, plus three-fourths of a teaspoon of active ingredients like pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and defoliants. These pesticides are classified among the most toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Today, almost 1,000 insects and weed species have developed resistance to chemical control. The increased resistance caused by the intensive use of chemicals is threatening to decrease crops and eventually the production of food, according to World Watch Institute. We can protect our land, water and life by entering into organic cotton produce.

Genetically Modified (GM) cotton was developed to reduce the heavy reliance on pesticides. The bacterium “Bacillus Thuringiensis” (BT) naturally produces a chemical harmful only to a small fraction of insects, most notably the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles & flies and harmless to other forms of life. The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton, causing cotton to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues. In many regions, the main pests in commercial cotton are lepidopteron larvae, which are killed by the Bt protein in the transgenic cotton they eat. This eliminates the need to use large amounts of broad-spectrum insecticides to kill lepidopteran pests (some of which have developed pyrethroid resistance). This spares natural insect predators in the farm ecology and further contributes to non-insecticide pest management.

A 2006 study done by Cornell researchers, the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy and the Chinese Academy of Science on Bt cotton farming in China found that after seven years these secondary pests that were normally controlled by pesticide had increased, necessitating the use of pesticides at similar levels to non-Bt cotton and causing less profit for farmers because of the extra expense of GM seeds.

The GM cotton not only led to reduced income but it proved to be villain to farmer friendly insects which breed on the harmful insects and a cause for ecological unbalance.

Merits of Organic Cotton Cultivation

(A) Environmentally Friendly Technology

  1. Due to excessive use of fertilizers and insecticides, all the elements of the agro-eco system gets polluted by the conventional method. Organic cotton production relies on non-chemical inputs and will decrease pollution hazards.

  2. Pesticides residues in fibre may cause carcinogenic damage to users. The use of bio-rational products and biocontrol agents for pest management in organic farming will cause no such effects.

  3. Large scale discharge of untreated and unprocessed effluents by textile industry and dyeing units has not only caused health problems to man, cattle and fish in the rivers and canals, but yields of cotton are reported to be affected due to polluted water that is used for irrigation.

  4. Destruction of beneficial soil organisms may cause damage to soil health creating imbalance in the natural population of predators/parasitoids of cotton pests. Organic farming helps to restore or preserve the natural equilibrium between different components of the ecosystem.

(B) Reduction in Cost of Cultivation

Modern production technology has lowered the cost-benefit ratio of cotton production. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra etc. are reported to have committed suicide due to escalation of production cost without occurring commensurate profit from cotton cultivation. On the other hand, organic farming creates rural employments and uses of on-farm resources to make it more cost-effective.

(C) Management of Insecticide Resistance

Due to indiscriminate use of hazardous insecticides for controlling cotton pests, the resistance of insects against the insecticide hiked up and in turn compelled the use of more number of sprays, and thus a vicious cycle is created, escalating cost of cultivation. Organic farming will help in reversing this trend. Evidences on poorer choice of multiplication rate of pests on organically grown cotton are encouraging factors to pursue this protocol.

Benefits of Organic Cotton to Farmers & Environment

  • Protects Soil.

  • Reduces Pollution.

  • Preserves Bio diversity.

  • Prevents Water Contamination.

  • Low Land, Carbon & Water Foot Print.

  • Ensures better Health to Farmers.

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