About Organic Cotton

What makes cotton organic?

To be classified as organic, cotton must be grown using materials and methods that have a low impact on the environment. This means that seeds cannot be genetically modified, pesticides must not be toxic and fertilizers not synthetic. A third-party organization must certify that these standards are being met for cotton to be officially recognized as organic.

Quick Facts: Organic Cotton

  • Seeds are untreated and cannot be genetically modified.
  • Soil is replenished by crop rotation (different species of crops are grown in the same area during different seasons).
  • Weeds are removed by hand.
  • Pests are eaten away by beneficial insects.
  • Defoliation is accomplished mostly through seasonal freezing.

Quick Facts: Conventional Cotton

  • Seeds are usually genetically modified and treated with fungicides or insecticides.
  • Soil is maintained using synthetic fertilizers and crop rotation is not implemented.
  • Weeds are kept at bay through the use of herbicides.
  • Pests are controlled through heavy use of insecticides and pesticides
  • Defoliation is accomplished mainly through seasonal freezing.

What is organic cotton used for?

Organic cotton is used for the same products that conventional cotton is used for. Many established brands are incorporating organic cotton into their apparel and it's also a popular way for up-and-coming designers to set their work apart. Organic cotton is used for products as small as cotton balls all the way through home furnishings. Products made with certified organic cotton will say so somewhere on their label.

Top Ten Producer Countries of Organic Cotton

1. India
2. Turkey
3. Syria
4. Tanzania
6. United States
7. Uganda
8. Peru
9. Egypt
10. Burkina Faso

Why isn't more cotton grown organically?

Reading through the quick facts of each method of production, one might wonder why more cotton isn't grown organically. Unfortunately, the same things that make organic cotton better for the environment also make it more difficult and expensive to cultivate. The reduced use of chemicals means more labor hours to remove weeds and pests. And since seeds are not genetically modified, they are more susceptible to soil and climate changes that farmers cannot control. Since these issues do make organic cotton more expensive to use, many companies compromise by using blends of organic cotton with conventional cotton. This way they can support the organic cotton industry while keeping prices realistic for customers. Win-win!