When most people hear about organic, they think of food. There are any number of organically produced foodstuff on the supermarket shelves that are grown without fertilizers or pesticides. But what is organic cotton? And what kind of shirts does it make?

Organic seal

Going organic
Like organically grown food, organic cotton is grown without using any pesticides or fertilizers and the plant itself is non-genetically modified. The aim of the industry is to promote and enhance biodiversity and natural biological cycles. It also aims to produce a high quality product that can used just non-organic cotton is used. In the United States, cotton plantation must meet a series of requirements from the National Organic Program or NOP. If a plantation doesn’t comply with these regulations, then it cannot be sold as organic. The regulations include the practises for pest control and handling of crops as well as the lack of fertilizers and pesticides. Currently there are some 24 countries around the world producing organic cotton with an increasing growth rate as popularity of the product grows. Turkey, India and China were the top three producers as of 2007.

Organic Cotton yarn

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Why organic? 
Cotton accounts for 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet in contrast uses 16% of the insecticides currently consumes, more than any other single crop. Non-organic cotton uses a high level of agrochemicals as well including herbicides and defoliants. These chemicals can sometimes remain on the cotton and be an irritant. More chemicals are used in the processing of cotton, polluting the air and water around the plants. Finally, the use of the pesticides means that other plants around are killed off and there is a decrease in natural biodiversity. On the turn side, organic cotton prides itself on being healthier and cleaner as well as better for the plant. Their growing methods protect both surface and ground water as there are no contaminants to run into either. There is a reduction in insect population through habitat planting rather than with chemical. This also means biodiversity remains at original levels. Finally, there are no toxic chemicals used in the processing of the cotton.

Organic cotton uses
Just like with non-organic cotton, the fibres produced in organic cotton farming can be used in a whole range of product. They can be woven into any of the weaves used for non-organic cotton such as twill and denim. This means they can be used to make both casual and high quality shirts for men, blouses for women and kids clothes. Anyone who has experienced a reaction to cotton clothing may be particularly interested in trying this type of shirt. Organic cotton has increased in popularity and diversified in its uses. As well as clothing, it is now used in home furnishings such as towels and sheets. It has also made its way into diapers and children’s accessories as well as being used to make stationary. The cottonseed and oil from the plant are also used in food products and animal feed. So the benefits to organic cotton are clear to see and the difference for the consumer potentially important. Would you now consider buying an organic shirt?