Ninety-three percent of cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically modified, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, but that isn’t stopping the market demand for organic cotton.
A new report released by the Organic Trade Association titled 2010 and Preliminary 2011 U.S. Organic Cotton Production & Marketing Trends found that acres of organic cotton planted in the U.S. were up by 30 percent to nearly 12,000 acres in 2010. The number of bales harvested increased by nearly 24 percent and more than 11,000 acres were harvested in 2010, yielding more than 13,000 bales of organic cotton. And despite record acres of organic cotton planted in 2011, yields are expected to be down significantly due to droughts throughout southern cotton-growing states such as Texas.
The OTA’s report predicts gains in the organic cotton sector for 2012 at more than 16,000 acres, which includes planting in new areas such as North Carolina where organic cotton was only first harvested last year.
Despite being considered a natural fabric, conventional cotton is one of the most highly sprayed crops. According to the OTA, “Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health.” While cotton takes up just 2.5 percent of the world’s agricultural land, it uses more chemicals than any other crop; 16 percent of the world’s insecticides are applied to cotton, including some of the most toxic, says the OTA. “Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production.” By definition of the USDA’s organic standards, organic crops cannot be sprayed with toxic pesticides or contain genetically modified organisms.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger