Have you ever thought about your clothing and the effects on the earth? What if I told you that the way cotton is currently grown and harvested, it endangers lives? Conventional cotton is causing extreme concerns and here’s why.
Tons and tons of pesticides are sprayed on cotton fileds every year to eradicate a little bug known as the boll weevil. The problem with using poison to kill one bug is that it kills all the other beneficial insects that keep nature on track.
In cotton’s natural habitat, the shrub is drought-resistant. It originally grew in dry parts of the world and was able to cope with those climates. Because of our consumption of cotton, the plant has been brought into environments that it is not equipped to deal with. The result is more natural predators that the plants can’t fight. Even in the US cotton farm workers are exposed to pesticides during spraying, or shortly after. The effects translate into long-term illnesses and other effects we aren’t even aware of.
Everything about this crop that was once naturally harvested is now a contaminated product. A quarter of the world’s pesticides are used to grow cotton. In order to make cotton safer, Monsanto Corporation developed a genetically modified cottonseed that had a built in pesticide that was lethal to the boll weevil. They sold the product to farmers who were looking to save money on their crops and make a better profit. But the well-intentioned seed had the opposite effect.
One name that keeps popping up is methyl parathion. Farm workers exposed to it suffer long-term health effects. In California, which by the way is doing great things to limit carbon emissions and taking steps to clean up the air, is not doing so well when it comes to pesticides. Cotton farmers are dying because of their exposure to pesticides. 20,000 – 40,000 deaths worldwide all year are caused by pesticide poisonings. Millions suffer the effects of minor poisoning.
Leukemia in children is increased in families that used pesticides in their houses. Across the world, over 90% of people exposed to pesticides all day suffer illness. Symptoms can range from vision disorders to cell death. Chemicals sprayed by air drift. There are no government regulations set-up to protect the families, farmers or babies that live and work in adjacent areas. If a crop plane dumps a load of pesticides for one field and they get carried into the next field over and sicken or cause illness to the people there, they have no recourse. Winds carry pesticides to fields, trees and into the water we all drink from.
Cotton isn’t just what we wear, it’s also what we eat. Cottonseed oil, used in crackers, potato chips, cookies, salad dressings and processed food carries all the pesticides it was treated with as it was growing. Cottonseed oil feeds cows. The pesticides get into the bloodstream and don’t leave. We end up carrying the pesticides in us, consuming them in food, all compiling into a toxic stew in our bodies.
The shift to organic cotton by consumers is just beginning but taking off quickly. There has been a 22% increase in organic consumption in the US and Canada over the last five years. Each time you buy organic, you encourage more organic farming practices. The higher the demand for organic, the more cotton farms will be converted and our dependence on toxic chemicals will slowly fade away. In a lot of ways, buying organic really saves lives. Not only your own, but the lives of those involved in the growing and developing processes.