What, Exactly, Makes Cotton 'Organic'?

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. 



ICAC Represents ALL Cotton

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. 


Organic or Traditional, It's All Good

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.

Cotton Producers Love the Land

Some people believe that organic cotton is better because organic farmers use conservation tillage, rotate their crops, and participate in land conservation efforts. All of those things are true! Organic producers are good stewards of the land. But they aren't the only ones! Many conventional cotton growers around the world also employ those very same practices. It's crucial that people understand all cotton producers do their best to care for the environment, no matter how they grow their crops.


Cotton Isn't the Problem with Cotton Buds

The skyrocketing amount of plastic trash is unquestionably a scary situation, and the calls to ban plastics straws and “cotton buds” are worth considering. However, note that in this context, "cotton bud" refers to the plastic stem, NOT the cotton swabs themselves. Also, many manufacturers have replaced the plastic stems with paper ones to minimise their environmental impact.


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A 9-to1 Return on Land

Talk about efficiency! Cotton occupies a mere 3% of the world's agricultural area -- yet it meets 27% of the world's textile needs. That's getting your fibre's worth! Globally, cotton's land use has remained relatively constant over the past 50 years, but the volume of fibre produced has increased. In other words, cotton growers are producing more cotton without planting on more land.

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Cotton's Advantages in 3D

Additive manufacturing has evolved from a pipe dream to a hotbed of innovation. Cotton-based filaments are appealing to 3D printers because they:

  •          Conduct heat well
  •          Get stronger when they're wet
  •          Are more scalable than materials like wood pulp


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Want Sleep? Choose Cotton Sheets

The people have spoken: Whether working or resting, cotton is #1! The majority of consumers say cotton is the best fabric for activewear, and more than 2 out of 3 say that 100% cotton sheets offer the best night’s sleep. 

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Cotton Plays a Global Role

Although about 80 percent of the world’s production comes from Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, the United States and Uzbekistan, cotton is grown in more than 100 countries – and it provides an income to hundreds of millions of people around the world every year.

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