Organic Cotton vs. Conventional: What’s the difference?
Photosource: NYTimes.com/2005
There are a number of important differences between conventional and organic cotton. Starting from the tilling of the soil to the selection of seeds, labor paid and water used, organic cotton farming requires significant investment of time and resources to radically overhaul conventional cotton growing methods.
Cotton is a crop that attracts a wide range of insects (eg cutworm, cotton bollworm, tobacco bollworm, army worm, loopers, aphids, whitefly, spider mite among others). This is one of the reasons why it is one of the largest pesticide dependent crops in the world.
The following table outlines some of the major differences at each stage of the growing process. Sources used for this table include: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Organic Exchange, Organic Trade Association (OTA), and Harmony Art Organic Designs. For more information on organic cotton certification, please visit OTA or OneCert.
The following chart was created for Green Cotton using the sources mentioned above.

  Organic  Conventional
GMO-free; untreated
Treated with fungicides, insecticides. Possible Genetic Modification
Crop rotation; cover cropping, better retention of moisture; higher concentrations of organic matter, animal manure additions
Synthetic fertilizers, loss of soil due to monocrop culture, intensive irrigation;
Beneficial insects and 'trap crops' used; flame weeding, and cultivation; Border management of vegetation (to increase population of native beneficials); use of certain biopesticides such as bacteria, virus and fungal insect pathogens
Aerial spraying of insecticides used & pesticides; FYI 9 of the most commonly pesticides are known cancer-causing agents
Natural defoliation from freezing temperatures or through the use of water management
Defoliation induced with toxic chemicals
Safe peroxide is used
Chlorine bleaching is used; toxic by products produced and released into environment in process
Soft scour in warm water with soda asj for Ph of 7.5 - 7.8
Hot water, synthetic surfactants, additional chemicals(sometimes formaldehyde)
Low impact, fier reactive or natural dyes used with low metal or sulfur content
High temperature with heavy metals and sulfur content(can leach into skin as well as ecosystem)
Low impact, water based inks and /or pigments with no heavy metals
Pigments may by petroleum based and contain heavy metals. Run off easily spills into waterways and ecosystem.
Organic certification includes requirements for fair wages and treatment of workers in the supply chain. Criteria are in place to ensure safe, healthy and non-abusive non-discriminatory
No fair trade or living wage requirements in place. Widespread evidence of child labor, forced labor, slave labor/wages and work conditions in countries where cotton growing exists. For more information on this topic visit Green Cotton's post 'White Gold; the true costs of Cotton.'

For a similar chart by Harmony Art Ogranic Designs, please visit her beautiful

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