Have you ever
wondered, ‘What, exactly, is the difference between organic and conventional
cotton?’ Organic and conventional cotton differ on two key points: 1) The
origin of the seeds, and 2) The origin of the inputs used to grow the cotton.
Organic cotton uses non-GM (non-genetically modified) seeds and inputs like
pesticides and fertiliser — but only if they are natural in origin.
Conventional cotton, on the other hand, can use GM seeds, as well as pesticides
and chemicals that are not themselves organic. In terms of performance, feel
and appearance, there is no discernible difference between cotton that is
produced by organic or conventional cultivation.
Does organic cotton offer better quality than conventional cotton? In a word: No. There are a lot of factors that can affect the quality of cotton, but whether it's grown organically or conventionally is not among them.
If organic cotton can be grown without using chemicals, why isn't more cotton, or even all of it, produced organically? In 2016, it represented 0.4% of global production and 0.1% of cotton's planted area. Organic production can be difficult, and the biggest challenge is yields. Globally, organic yields hover around 375 kg/hectare, while conventional yields are roughly double that amount (760 kg/hectare), according to research from ICAC's Dr. Kehsav Kranthi and Lihan Wei. However, evidence from India, the United States and Turkey shows that when production practices follow the strong scientific research base, high yields of more than 1,000 kg per hectare are possible. Organic and conventional cotton are not enemies! The goal is to increase the overall global consumption of cotton. Having an accurate and realistic view of the advantages and challenges of all types of cotton cultivation is the first step in that quest.