Pros and Cons (Benefits & Disadvantages) Of GMO Crops & Foods

A List Of Pros and Cons Of GMO Crops & Foods

GMO crops and foods make up a large portion of the US market for some crop types now.

With this being the case, it’s worth knowing the pros and cons of GMO foods and crops.

Below we’ve done a quick guide/list of what these potential advantages and disadvantages might be.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of GMO Crops & Food

These are general pros and cons of GMO crops and food.

The reality is that the final list of pros and cons can be individual to the type of crop or food being grow, where it’s grown, how it’s grown, how it’s approved and regulated, and so on. So, each set of crops or food being assessed may have different factors or variables to take into consideration.

We actually wrote about how the use of GMOs in the future probably needs much clearer guidelines that bridges both sides of the debate, and considers all GMO seeds/crops/foods individually, along with non GMO technology and practices individually – and compare them objectively with independent short term and long term stats and evidence. Generalising GMOs as a whole is not specific enough.

Here is a condensed list of the potential pros and cons:

 

Pros

  • Plants and crops can be engineered for pest & insect resistance (which can mean less chemical pesticide has to be used and applied)
  • GMO plants and crops can encourage beneficial insects and soil bacteria
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for disease resistance
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for drought resistance (good for drought stricken areas, and also means less water might be used on those plants and crops)
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for an enhanced nutritional profile 
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for herbicide tolerance
  • Plants and crops can be engineered to last longer (which can decrease food loss and waste)
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for more efficient or better manufacturing processes
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for fewer pesticide applications
  • Plants and crops can be engineered for lesser high nitrogen fertilizer input
  • Some of the above engineering means less air, water & soil pollution
  • GMO foods and crops can lead to healthier soil (especially via conservation tillage)
  • GMO foods and crops can lead to safer conditions for farm workers, & less risks to their health
  • GMO foods and crops can lead to less time & effort invested by farmers for the same output/productivity
  • GMO foods and crops can lead to higher yields
  • GMO foods and crops can lead to better revenues & profits
  • Several parties can profit/benefit from GMOs, not just one
  • GMO food and crops can lead to more efficient land use
  • GMOS foods and crops can have a smaller carbon footprint
  • GMO foods and crops can help address other problems like climate change, water scarcity, world hunger, overpopulation, food waste/food loss, and so on
  • GMO food and crops can help preserve or increase biodiversity
  • GMO technology might be able to speed up what similar results we can get from cross breeding
  • Some sources say GMO foods and crops carry no more health risks than conventional food & crops

 

Cons

  • There’s already other solutions to population growth and providing a food supply to additional people
  • Most of the GMO crops we grow go to feed for livestock – which we might be able to cut back on by analyzing and changing our diets
  • Even with independent studies and research, there are questions over whether all independent studies on GMOs get published and/or edited
  • Outcrossing or mixing of genes can occur in the wild (where GE foods and crops mix with conventional or natural foods or crops, or a nut gene gets transferred to a soybean for example), and once GMOs have been released into nature, they can’t be recalled
  • Long term impact of GMOs are questionable or uncertain to some – for humans, animals and environment
  • GMOs could trigger food allergies in some instances
  • GMOs could trigger allergies in a secondary source
  • Could contribute to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (via gene transfer)
  • Might be connected to cancer formation
  • Companies who own GMO seeds may have a monopoly over the market, which can create power imbalances, conflicts of interest, and reliance (by farmers and others)
  • A specific conflict of interest by GMO seed companies is their ownership of pesticides & herbicides that has grown in use significantly since the introduction of GMOs
  • Farmers in developing countries may be negatively impacted by the power big GMO seed and pesticide companies have in the market (losing leverage, power and independence. Seeds might not be renewable for example)
  • GMO farming may lead to legal issues for some farmers
  • Regulation, approval processes and labelling can get complex, & can cause issues between states, and countries
  • There can be unnecessary external political and economic pressure put on some countries to use or not use GMOs (not related to science and fact)
  • GMO crops can still be lost to weeds naturally resistant to herbicides (so they aren’t perfect), and can be the cause for new super weeds to develop
  • Can reduce biodiversity in some ways – mono cultures, and limited gene set
  • New diseases may emerge
  • Some question the evidence that GMOs provide specific types of benefits 
  • Can be other concerns with GMOs

 

What Are GMO Crops & Foods?

  • When people refer to genetically modified organisms – GMOs – they are referring to crops developed through genetic engineering, a more precise method of plant breeding.
  • Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing.
  • Some examples of desirable traits commonly transferred include resistance to insects and disease and tolerance to herbicides that allow farmers to better control weeds.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques (i.e., a genetically engineered organism).
  • A more specifically defined type of GMO is a “transgenic organism.” This is an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism. This should not be confused with the more general way in which “GMO” is used to classify genetically altered organisms, as typically GMOs are organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered without the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism.

– wikipedia.org

 

Potential Pros Of GMO Crops & Foods

  • Pest & Insect Resistance

Crops can be engineered to be more pest resistant to whatever the dominant pest or pests are in a particular area.

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • Encourages Beneficial Insects

Because there are less target pests, and less pesticide being sprayed, GE crops might encourage more beneficial insect populations

 

  • Disease Resistance

Crops and foods can be GE to be more resistant to certain types of disease that are prevalent to them

 

Through genetic engineering plant breeders can enable plants to resist certain diseases, like the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV).  The GM Rainbow Papaya, developed to be resistant to PRSV, allowed Hawaiian papaya farmers to recover from an outbreak of this devastating disease that crippled their industry.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Drought Resistance

GM crops that express drought tolerance have better moisture retention and can better endure drought conditions without the need for additional irrigation.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Requires Less Water, & Conserves Water

Crops and foods can be engineered to need less water, which saves freshwater supplies and means less irrigation

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • Enhanced Nutritional Profile Or Content Of Foods

Foods can be engineered to have longer shelf life, and have better nutrients, or more of a specific nutrient 

– vittana.org

 

Genetically modified soybeans with an enhanced oil profile, much like olive oil, have been developed and are longer lasting and trans-fat free.

– gmoanswers.com

 

For example, foods can be engineered to take longer to spoil, or to have more protein, vitamins, or calcium for example

 

  • Herbicide Tolerance

Crops developed to tolerate specific herbicides allow farmers to fight weeds by applying targeted herbicides only when needed and enable them to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Reduced Food Waste

Genetic engineering has been used to modify potatoes and apples in order to eliminate superficial browning and bruising (potato only) when the produce is cut or handled.  These traits can help reduce the amount of produce thrown away by producers, processors, retailers and consumers.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Improved Manufacturing Processes

Certain biotech corn varieties enable more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel.  This helps reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing process by decreasing the amount of water, electricity, and natural gas needed to produce biofuel.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Fewer Pesticide Applications

Because the crops are more pest resistant, they may not need to be sprayed as frequently or at all – this decreases pesticide costs, and decreases time spent spraying, as well as health and environmental benefits

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • Lesser Fertilizer Input

Some GE foods and crops might be engineered in a way to need less fertilizer, or, because the soil is healthier (from conservation tillage, less pesticide, etc.), the crops might need less overall fertilizer input

 

We have GM crop plants with … the ability to produce more food with lower fertiliser inputs

– theconversation.com

 

Less fertilizer can also mean less nitrogen is introduced into the environment – which benefits water, air, wildlife and more – as excess nitrogen has caused issues like air pollution and water pollution

 

  • Less Air, Water & Soil Pollution

Because there are less pesticides that have to be sprayed, there is less pesticide chemical getting into the air, soil and water, leading to cleaner air, water and soil

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • Healthier Soil (conservation tillage)

Crops and food that don’t need to be sprayed with herbicides as often or as much don’t need tillage as much. This can help preserve the soil as it’s not getting disturbed and eroded as often, and it also allows mulch and beneficial biomass to build up on the soil more frequently

 

  • Safer Conditions For Farm Workers, & Less Risks To Their Health

Particularly in developing countries where workers are exposed most to harmful chemicals – if there is less pesticide being sprayed – the conditions for farmers and their workers are better as there is less risk to their health

 

  • Less Time & Effort For Farmers

Less pesticide spraying, less tillage, and less organic related farming tasks mean less time and effort expended for farmers and workers on GE crops and food

 

  • Higher Yields & Productivity

GMO farms report higher yields for the same area of land as conventional farming

 

In the most comprehensive meta-analysis (of 147 publications) to date, researchers from Goettingen University have concluded that the adoption of GM technology has:

  • Reduced pesticide use by 37%
  • Increased crop yield by 22%
  • Increased farmer profits by 68%.

The yield and profit gains are considerably higher in developing countries than in developed countries, and 53% of GM crops are grown in developing countries.

– theconverstion.com

 

According to PG Economics, from 1996 to 2015, GMO crops are estimated to have contributed to an additional global production of 357.7 million tons of maize, 180.3 million tons of soybeans, 25.2 million tons of cotton and 10.6 million tons of canola. GM crops have contributed to higher yields, e.g., 30 percent more in some farming areas, and can contribute to poverty reduction and food security in developing countries.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Better Revenues & Profits, & Lower Costs

Higher yields, and less input costs, time and effort spent on growing and processing foods and crops – means more revenues and profits

 

  • Several Parties Profit/Benefit From GMOs

The global market for genetically modified crops was estimated at $14.8 billion in 2012.

Studies differ on how this money is divvied up. One 2010 review estimated very roughly that somewhere around one-third of the total economic benefit of GM crop technology goes to seed and chemical companies. Another third accrues to US farmers. The remaining third is split between US consumers and the rest of the world:

But, in general, it’s said that Seed & Chemical companies, US farmers, US consumers, and developed countries all benefit

– vox.com

 

  • Less Land Use

Higher yields for the same area of land, means you use less land overall for GMO farming

 

  • Less Carbon Emissions

Because you are using less inputs to grow foods and crops

 

There can be other benefits in GM crops, beyond yield and resistance. Rice produces 10% of the world’s methane emissions so imagine if somebody could reduce emissions by 90%, and make plants with larger seeds containing more energy.

Chuangxin Sun’s group at Swedish Agricultural University has done precisely that by transferring a single gene from barley to rice.

If all the world’s rice used this technology, it would be the equivalent of closing down 150 coal-fired power stations or removing 120 million cars from the road annually.

– theconversation.com

 

  • Can Help Address Other Social Problems Like Climate Change, Water Scarcity, World Hunger, Overpopulation, Food Waste etc.

All of these issues are either issues right now, or issues heading into the future.

Crops genetically engineered to cope with drought and hot/dry conditions, crops that need less water, and reducing food waste through having foods that last longer can all help address these problems

 

Food can be engineered to last longer, so it can be transported longer distances into rural or remote areas to those with a lack of food.

– vittana.org

 

Genetic engineering has been used to modify potatoes and apples in order to eliminate superficial browning and bruising (potato only) when the produce is cut or handled.  These traits can help reduce the amount of produce thrown away by producers, processors, retailers and consumers.

– gmoanswers.com

 

Through better food production with GE, we may also be able to address other world issues going forward like climate change/global warming, freshwater supply issues, water security, overpopulation, malnutrition and so on

– msutoday.msu.edu

 

  • Can Help Preserve Or Increase Biodiversity, Or Increase The Size Of Genetic Bases

Since we are dealing with narrow genetic and germplasm bases for most of our staple food crops, we may have to reach out to genetic engineering technologies and genes from other sources to improve them further

– msutoday.msu.edu

 

We currently rely on very few plant species for the majority of the world’s food production. More than half of our plant-derived energy intake comes from just three grasses (wheat, rice and corn). Gene editing could provide a way to expand this.

– theconversation.com

 

GM crops increase productivity on existing agricultural land and protect biodiversity by sparing lands not intensively cultivated. Through enhanced adoption of conservation tillage practices, the reduction of insecticide use, and the use of more environmentally benign herbicides that increase yields, GM agriculture has alleviated pressure to convert additional land into agricultural use.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • GMO technology might be able to speed up what similar results we can get from cross breeding

[A Mexico City-based organization has created drought resistant maize varieties that yield up to 30% higher than commercial seeds under drought conditions … but this has taken years and decades to achieve … and they are 10 years or more from economic commercialization]

– forbes.com

 

  • GMOs Carry No More Health Risks Than Conventional Food & Crops

Various sources say GMO foods provide the same nutrients and the same health risks as organic foods

– vittana.org

 

Potential Cons Of GMO Crops & Foods

  • There’s already other solutions to population growth, and the associated need for a food supply for these people

Investing in cold food storage and transport technology for developing countries can cut down on food loss in developing countries

Cutting down on food waste in developed countries will save a lot of resources spent producing these foods

Along with these two solutions, there’s other solutions that can help provide a food supply to a growing population other than just GMO food and crops.

 

  • Most of the GMO crops we grow go to feed for livestock – which we might be able to cut back on by analyzing and changing our diets

Food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean

– forbes.com

 

If we stop eating as much livestock products, and look at the benefits of plant based diets, there is less of a need for GMO developing, funding and use.

 

  • Even With Independent Studies & Research, There Are Questions Over Whether All Independent Studies Get Published Or Edited

User agreements with half of today’s leading GMO seed producers prohibit the use of independent research on the final product. This helps to protect the royalties that the companies earn when farmers are able to harvest a yield through the use of their seeds. Since the seeds are considered company property, even the unintended growing of a GMO crop can result in the need to pay a royalty.

– vittana.org

 

Research into GM seeds is tightly controlled by the agritech companies that have given themselves the power to quash the work of independent researchers. Research on genetically modified seeds is still done by independent scientists, but only studies that the seed companies have approved are published in peer-reviewed journals.

– choice.com.au

 

  • Outcrossing Or Mixing Of Genes Can Occur In The Wild

Where GE foods and crops mix with conventional or natural foods or crops, or a nut gene gets transferred to a soybean for example

 

In 2000, it was found that a pest-repelling GMO corn crop that was only approved for feeding animals had cross-pollinated conventional corn crops nearby that were intended for human food.

– choice.com.au

 

  • Long Term Impacts Of GMOs Are Questionable Or Uncertain To Some

There are claims that there aren’t enough long term studies into the long term impact of GMOs on humans, animals and the environment

 

In the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown. 

– nongmoproject.org

 

The Australian Organic organisation says … there are no long-term studies on human health.

– theconversation.com

 

  • Could Trigger Food Allergies

There is no clear evidence that supports this, but it is an idea that some people believe could be true

– vittana.org

 

  • Could Trigger Allergies In A Secondary Source

In one case, GMOs that contained proteins from Brazil nuts were found to trigger an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to them. Because of this, any proteins that come from a different food item must be listed as part of the ingredients or growing process and be tested to determine their ability to cause an allergic reaction.

– vittana.org

 

In 1996, researchers found that when an allergenic Brazil nut gene was transferred into a soybean, the allergenicity from the Brazil nuts was transferred too. It wasn’t approved for market and, since then, the FAO and WHO say that allergenic proteins are not allowed to be transferred into a GMO.

– choice.com.au

 

  • May Cause Gene Transfer Of Antibiotic Resistance

GMOs are often incorporated with antibiotic-resistant genes in order to strengthen the crops that will grow. There is speculation, but no confirmed facts or correlations, that this process could be contributing to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

– vittana.org

 

Although the probability is low, gene transfer from GM foods into bacteria in our gut, or cells in our body, could occur. There are fears that antibiotic-resistant genes used as markers when creating GMOs could contribute to antibiotic resistance.

– choice.com.au

 

  • Might Be Connected To Cancer Formation

A paper that was first published in 2013 linked the herbicide that is found in Roundup-tolerant crops to cancer development in rats. Some people are skeptical of eating corn because of this

– vittana.org

 

  • Companies Who Own GMO Seeds May Have Somewhat Of A Monopoly Over The Market

There are 5 other companies that, along with Monsanto, control nearly all of the GMO seed market. This include Sungenta, Dow Agrosciences, Bayer, BASF, and DuPont. This means a majority of corn and soybean products are not only profiting the farmer, but they are profiting companies as well.

– vittana.org

 

Many believe that the dominance of the global GM seed and agrichemicals market by a handful of chemical companies (including Dow Chemical, Du Pont, Monsanto, Bayer, ChemChina and Syngenta) puts farmers in financially vulnerable situations, particularly in developing countries.

Where once farmers had choice and saved their own seeds for crop regeneration, now Monsanto has them sign a user agreement that prevents them from saving and replanting the seeds, forcing them to reinvest each season. 

– choice.com.au

 

  • A specific conflict of interest by GMO seed companies is their ownership of pesticides & herbicides that has grown in use significantly since the introduction of GMOs

Biotech companies have certainly profited from GM crops, not least because seeds and genetic innovations can be patented. Monsanto, for instance, can sell both Roundup herbicide and Roundup-resistant corn and soybeans to farmers, who must repurchase the seeds every year.

– vox.com

 

More than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides, such as Roundup®, has increased fifteenfold since GMOs were first introduced

– nongmoproject.org

 

  • Developing Country Farmers May Be Subject To Power Than Big GMO Companies Have

Losing leverage, power and independence, and going into debt.

Seeds might not be renewable for example or farmers may be limited by the seeds they can choose from to grow (by way of contract) – which can put developing country farmers in debt if they don’t make a profit on one particular season

 

… the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields have been contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of the drift of pollen from neighboring fields. Genetically modified crops therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty and to the national food security of any country where they are grown

– nongmoproject.org

 

 

  • GMO Farming May Cause Legal Trouble For Some Farmers

To protect GMO profits, patents are sought on certain seeds, which has caused legal troubles for some farmers who have had GMO seeds cross-pollinate with their crops, despite not planting GMOs.

– vittana.org

 

  • Regulation, Approval Processes and Labelling Can Get Complex, & Can Cause Issues Between States, And Between Countries

Regulations can different between what is allowed to be grown, and what GE ingredients are allowed in each country

Regulations can different between states within a country – making conforming to a federal GE regulation difficult 

Labelling is also contentious – with different requirements for what should be put on GE ingredient food in supermarkets. Some people want to know whether their food includes GE ingredients, while other don’t mind. Different countries have different regulations on whether GE ingredients need to be identified on a label

The approval process for gene editing for example is also an issue in places like Europe because it pushes up barriers to entry to the market, and might be driving money and talent out of Europe. In the US, approval and regulation isn’t as strict – but then safety may be an issue. There should be a middle ground between the two approaches

 

  • There Can Be External Political, Economic & Other Reasons To Not Use or Use GMOs 

Such as some countries in Africa who might be hesitant to introduce GM food and crops through fear of damaging trade relations with Europe, who has strict regulations on growing GM food

– theconversation.com

 

When nations ban the importation or cultivation of GMO products, such moves are generally driven not by science, as the independent science organizations in every major country have come out with public statements that GM products are safe.

Other factors are trade protectionism, pressure from activists, public uneasiness or a desire to protect a country’s image—such as the French belief that genetic crops could “contaminate” the country’s reputation as a world food capital.

As is often the case with GMOs, the situation in the European Union suggests how divisive and political this issue has become.

The EU has witnessed numerous skirmishes between scientists and politically-based opposition.

Scottish leaders, for example, admitted that their decision to opt out of GMO cultivation was based on marketing concerns, rather than science. And when the European Commission’s science adviser, Anne Glover, spoke in favor of the science of genetic engineering, she found herself out of a job following intense lobbying by opposition groups.

Bans almost always run counter to the advice of scientists and agricultural experts in the nations where they are implemented.

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

  • It Is Believed There Is Some Connection Between Herbicide Resistant Crops, & The Development Of Herbicide Resistant Weeds In The US – Which Has Actually Led To An Increase In The Use Of Some Types Of Herbicides, and Super Weeds Developing

We are talking about the impact of Glyphosate, Roundup, Glyphosate Tolerant Crops, Glyphosate Resistant Weeds and so on

– blogs.umass.edu

 

Genetically modified crops also are responsible for the emergence of “superweeds” and “superbugs,” which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons such as 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange)

– nongmoproject.org

 

  • The Increase In Herbicide Usage Can Cause Environmental & Wildlife Damage

Due to runoff into soil and water

And this affects amphibians and other types of wildlife

– blogs.umass.edu

 

  • GMO Crops Can Still Be Lost To Weeds Naturally Resistant To Herbicides

There are currently 64 different types of weeds which have been proven to be resistant to atrazine – all without GMO pairing. Farmers can lose up to half their yield from these atrazine-resistant weeds

– vittana.org

 

  • Can Reduce Biodiversity In Some Ways, Or Place Environmental Pressure On Other Plants, Crops & Foods

Modified organisms could be inbred with natural organisms, leading to the possible extinction of the original organism 

– livescience.com

 

If plants and crops and food are continually engineered and bred for the same traits – there may be a loss of overall diversity of genetic information, despite the more favorable new crops and foods being better for farmers and consumers

 

  • New Diseases May Emerge

Bacteria and viruses are sometimes used in gene modification, and some people believe this could lead to new pathogens. This is more so speculation at this point though

– choice.com.au

 

  • There Some Debate That Many Of The Pros Listed Above Might Not Be Exclusive To GMOs When Compared To The Results Achieved With Some Sustainable Or Organic Type Farming

We are talking about pros like increased yields, reduced pesticide use, reduced energy usage, increased revenues and so on

– http://earthopensource.org

 

  • Some Question The Evidence That GMOs Provide Specific Benefits

Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

– nongmoproject.org

 

Monsanto had marketed a drought-resistant corn product, but that this has not had great commercial uptake and its efficacy was questioned by a scientific study … [it is worth noting though that] Arcadia has not yet received regulatory approval for the product, so has not been able to sell drought-tolerant soybeans in Argentina. As such, the commercial impact of the product is still uncertain. 

– forbes.com

 

  • Can Be Other Concerns With GMOs

The key areas of controversy related to GMO food are whether GM food should be labeled, the role of government regulators, the effect of GM crops on health and the environment, the effect on pesticide resistance, the impact of GM crops for farmers, and the role of GM crops in feeding the world population.

The Organic Consumers Association, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace stated that risks have not been adequately identified and managed, and they have questioned the objectivity of regulatory authorities.

Some health groups say there are unanswered questions regarding the potential long-term impact on human health from food derived from GMOs, and propose mandatory labelling or a moratorium on such products.

Concerns include contamination of the non-genetically modified food supply, effects of GMOs on the environment and nature, the rigor of the regulatory process, and consolidation of control of the food supply in companies that make and sell GMOs, or concerns over the use of herbicides with glyphosate.

– wikipedia.org

 

[we should be] very worried about the current implementation of GMO due to its effects on cropland, the ecosystem, and human health, and that research into GMOs is taking resources away from potentially much more helpful cross-breeding projects in the short run.

– forbes.com

 

Read some more reasons why some sources say to avoid GMOs at https://responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/ 

 

Some Sources That Question How Safe GMOs Are In General

  • responsibletechnology.org goes as far as to say ‘GMOs are unhealthy’ and outlines human related health issue patterns, trends or occurrences that might be linked with GMOs
  • nongmoproject.org points out that “In the absence of credible independent long-term feeding studies, the safety of GMOs is unknown”
  • Forbes.com says that “the current implementation of GMO due to its effects on cropland, the ecosystem, and human health, and that research into GMOs is taking resources away from potentially much more helpful cross-breeding projects in the short run.”
  • What we do know is that the introduction of GMOs has coincided with a steep increase of the use of pesticides…
  • theconversation.com says that ‘glyphosate is safe if used as directed’ and there is ‘no statistically significant evidence for an association [of glyphosate] with cancer’
  • But, Forbes.com points out ‘While Roundup has not tested as toxic to humans and other mammals, the longer it has been on the market, the worse its effects on soil health and long-term plant fecundity appear. In addition, Roundup Ready plants may not allow necessary micronutrients to be absorbed by animals consuming them’

 

Some Stats On GMO Foods & Crops

Read more about GMO stats and facts in this guide:

 

Other Resources/Guides On GMOs That You Might Be Interested In Reading

 

Sources

1. https://vittana.org/13-vital-pros-and-cons-of-gmos

2. https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-myths-vs-facts

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-cotton/

5. https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-basics 

6. https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-safety/articles/are-you-eating-gm-food#2%20what%20GM%20foods%20are%20grown%20in%20australia? 

7. https://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html 

8. https://theconversation.com/gm-crops-can-benefit-organic-farmers-too-51318  

9. https://theconversation.com/why-genetically-modified-crops-have-been-slow-to-take-hold-in-africa-44195 

10. https://theconversation.com/tweaking-just-a-few-genes-in-wild-plants-can-create-new-food-crops-but-lets-get-the-regulation-right-104490  

11. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/ 

12. https://blogs.umass.edu/natsci397a-eross/environmental-impact-of-gmos/comment-page-1/

13. http://earthopensource.org/gmomythsandtruths/sample-page/summary/ 

14. https://www.vox.com/2014/11/3/18092770/who-profits-from-gmo-technology

15. https://www.nongmoproject.org/gmo-facts/

16. https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkobayashisolomon/2019/02/15/heres-the-real-reason-why-gmos-are-bad-and-why-they-may-save-humanity/#371234154877

17. https://responsibletechnology.org/10-reasons-to-avoid-gmos/

18. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/interesting-important-gmo-facts-stats/

19. https://theconversation.com/stop-worrying-and-trust-the-evidence-its-very-unlikely-roundup-causes-cancer-104554

List Of GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Different Countries

List Of GMO Foods & Crops In Different Countries

Not all countries grow, or import GE (genetically engineered) foods and crops.

Below is a list of the countries that grow GE, and the crops and foods they grow.

Note that some countries don’t allow the growing of GE foods/crops, but might allow the importation of ingredients (we’ve used Australia as an example).

 

Summary – GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Different Countries

  • The USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and India all lead the world in 2016 in growing the most GMO/Biotech crops
  • 26 countries have total or partial bans on GMOs … with 60 others having heavy restrictions on them
  • 38 countries ban the cultivation of GMO crops (as opposed to importing them which is different)

 

Countries That Grow GMO Crops

As of 2016:

  • Brazil, United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Philippines, Spain, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, Sudan, Slovakia, Costa Rica, China, India, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, Portugal, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Myanmar.

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

Countries That Grow The Most GMO/Biotech Crops

As of 2016:

  1. USA – 72.9 Million Hectares
  2. Brazil – 49.1 Million Hectares
  3. Argentina – 23.8 Million Hectares
  4. Canada – 11.6 Million Hectares
  5. India – 10.8 Million Hectares
  6. Paraguay – 3.6 Million Hectares
  7. Pakistan – 2.9 Million Hectares
  8. China – 2.8 Million Hectares
  9. South Africa  -2.7 Million Hectares
  10. Uruguay – 1.3 Million Hectares
  11. Bolivia – 1.2 Million Hectares
  12. Australia – 0.9 Million Hectares
  13. Phillipines – 0.8 Million Hectares
  14. Myanmar – 0.3 Million Hectares
  15. Spain – 0.1 Million Hectares
  16. Sudan – 0.1 Million Hectares
  17. Mexico – 0.1 Million Hectares
  18. Columbia – 0.1 Million Hectares
  19. Vietnam – <0.05 Million Hectares
  20. Honduras – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  21. Chile – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  22. Portugal – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  23. Bangladesh – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  24. Costa Rica – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  25. Slovakia – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares
  26. Czech Republic – <0.05 0.1 Million Hectares

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

Countries With Partial Or Full Bans On The Growing Or Importation Of GMO Foods & Crops

26 countries had total or partial bans on GMOs, “including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia,” and … “significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.”

In 2015, anti-GMO group Sustainable Pulse said that 38 countries ban the cultivation of GMO crops. The group’s list includes Algeria and Madagascar in Africa; Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Bhutan, and Saudi Arabia in Asia; Belize, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela in South and Central America; and 28 countries in Europe.

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In The United States

Alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets. 

– gmoanswers.com

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Brazil

Soybean, maize and cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Argentina

Soybean, maize and cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Canada

Canola, maize, soybean, sugar beet, alfalfa

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In India

Cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Paraguay

Soybean, maize and cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Pakistan

Cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In China

Cotton, papaya, poplar

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In South Africa

Soybean, maize and cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Uruguay

Soybean, maize 

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Bolivia

Soybean

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Australia

Cotton, canola

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods Ingredients Imported To Australia

Imported GM soya, Imported GM corn, Imported GM sugar beet, Cottonseed oil for GM cotton, Imported GM potatoes, GM canola

– choice.com.au

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In The Phillipines

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Myanmar

Cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Spain 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Sudan 

Cotton

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Mexico

Cotton, soybean

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Columbia 

Cotton, maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Vietnam 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Honduras 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Chile 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Portugal 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Bangladesh 

Eggplant

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Costa Rica

Cotton, soybean, pineapple 

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Slovakia 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

GMO Foods & Crops Grown In Czech Republic 

Maize

– gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org

 

Sources

1. https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/ 

2. https://gmoanswers.com/current-gmo-crops

3. https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-safety/articles/are-you-eating-gm-food#2%20what%20GM%20foods%20are%20grown%20in%20australia? 

Why Do We Need GMOs Into The Future, & What GMOs Are Currently Being Used For

Why Do We Need GMOs Into The Future, & What GMOs Are Currently Being Used For

This is not a guide about whether GMOs and genetic engineering technology are right or wrong to use and create.

That is a separate question.

Rather, this guide focusses on what GMOs are used to do/achieve currently, and why they may be, and may not be needed for the future.

 

Why Do We Need GMOs Into The Future?

There are still questions about GMOs about their short term and long term effects on people, animals, and the environment and ecosystem.

But, the possibilities with GMOs about how they may benefit society are wide ranging.

With food in particular, GMOs have the potential to help feed our growing population – which is expected to reach around 9 or 10 billion by around 2050 (however, because we already produce enough food for that number of people – people point to fixing up food loss in developing countries with cold food storage technology, and decreasing food waste in developed countries as better solutions).

Genetic engineering can help with the future of food production.

For example, depletion of freshwater resources and climate change/global warming are two issues that are expected to grow in significance into the future (and are already fairly significant).

GE can help crops and foods be more resistant to water droughts – which can make agricultural growing conditions much easier on farmers when considering these two issues.

GE can also help increase yields and help food last longer before it spoils – so there can be more food and that food will take longer before it goes to waste – both of which can be helpful in feeding a growing population.

These are just a few examples of how we might need GE into the future, but there are many more examples of how GE can be useful to us as a way to combat other problems we may have.

 

  • Conservative estimates suggest that the human population will surpass 9 billion by 2050. The actual figure could be closer to 10 billion. Either way, this will require a massive shift in the way we lose or waste food, or we will need to boost food production to feed that many people.
  • Crops that are more adaptable to varying climate conditions and less vulnerable to pathogens and other pests will be significant pieces of the puzzle.
  • “We can’t control the fact that the population is increasing or that there is a finite amount of agricultural land — land that is decreasing in quality overall,” … Some people have fears about large-scale industrial agriculture and GMOs, and that’s why we should also be looking at things from the viewpoint of sustainability.”
  • Pests and diseases aren’t the only concerns driving the development and use of genetically modified crops.
  • Changing global average surface temperatures are also making farming more challenging worldwide.
  • … some food crops are naturally ill-equipped to handle the added environmental stresses, ranging from not enough rain to unyielding cold spells.
  • “Since we are dealing with narrow genetic and germplasm bases for most of our staple food crops, we may have to reach out to genetic engineering technologies and genes from other sources to improve them further,” … “Otherwise, we may run out of options.” 

– msutoday.msu.edu

 

Why We May Not Need GMOs In The Future

Some sources have a differing view on a need for GMOs into the future.

Organicconsumers.org and Earthopensource.org both outline reasons why a heavy reliance on GMOs might not be necessary.

From Earthopensource.org:

‘there is no need to take risks with GM crops when effective, readily available, and sustainable solutions to the problems that GM technology is claimed to address already exist. Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.

The quality and efficacy of our food production system depends only partly on crop genetics. The other part of the equation is farming methods. What is needed are not just high-yielding, climate-ready, and disease-resistant crops, but productive, climate-ready, and disease-resistant agriculture.’

– Earthopensource.org

 

As mentioned above, addressing the issues of food waste and food loss in both developed and developing countries are also ways to address the food production vs population increase problem.

 

What Are GMOs Currently Being Used For?

Food & Crops

  • Insect Resistance – against pests for example
  • Drought Tolerance – better moisture retention, can better endure drought conditions, and need less irrigation from freshwater sources
  • Herbicide Tolerance – tolerate specific herbicides, allows farmers to fight certain weeds better, and allows farmers to use conservation tillage production methods that preserve topsoil, prevent erosion, and reduce carbon emissions.
  • Disease Resistance – against diseases that are known to damage or wipe out certain foods and crops. This saves profits, waste and increases yields
  • Enhanced Nutritional Content – can increase nutrition profiles with fats, protein and calcium for example
  • Reduced Food Waste – reduce browning and bruising of foods like potatoes and apples
  • Improved Manufacturing Processes – more efficient biofuels production by improving the process through which cellulose and/or starch is broken down and converted to fuel

– gmoanswers.com

 

Microorganisms

Bacteria

  • Bacteria have been used in the production of food for a long time
  • Specific strains of bacteria have been developed and selected for that work on an industrial scale to produce a large amount of proteins
  • There’s potential to treat diseases by genetically altering the bacteria to, themselves, be therapeutic agents
  • Bacteria have been used for over a hundred years in agriculture
  • Other uses for genetically modified bacteria include bioremediation, where the bacteria are used to convert pollutants into a less toxic form, and Bioart (a type of artwork with bacteria)

Virus

  • Viruses are often modified so they can be used as vectors for inserting genetic information into other organisms.

Yeast

  • As of 2016 two genetically modified yeasts involved in the fermentation of wine have been commercialised.

– wikipedia.org

Plants

  • Transgenic plants have been engineered for scientific research – plants are engineered to help discover the functions of certain genes
  • Transgenic plants have been engineered to create new colours in plants
  • Transgenic plants have been engineered to create different crops – for production of biopharmaceuticals in bioreactors as opposed to cultivating plants in open fields

Crops (food, and fibres/seeds like cotton)

  • Plants used in agriculture – this is a widely used practice – especially in the US
  • In most cases the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.
  • There’s also development of cisgenic (sometimes called intragenisis) plants in the works too

Conservation

  • Genetically modified organisms have been proposed to aid conservation of plant species threatened by extinction
  • This remains speculative though

– wikipedia.org

 

Mammals

Currently being developed in six main categories:

  1. to research human diseases (for example, to develop animal models for these diseases);
  2. to produce industrial or consumer products (fibres for multiple uses);
  3. to produce products intended for human therapeutic use (pharmaceutical products or tissue for implantation);
  4. to enrich or enhance the animals’ interactions with humans (hypo-allergenic pets);
  5. to enhance production or food quality traits (faster growing fish, pigs that digest food more efficiently);
  6. to improve animal health (disease resistance)

Research Use

  • Transgenic animals are used as experimental models to perform phenotypic (observing traits and characteristics) and for testing in biomedical research.

Human therapeutics and xenotransplants

  • Within the field known as pharming, intensive research has been conducted to develop transgenic animals that produce biotherapeutics.
  • Some animals are also genetically modified so that they can provide organs that are suitable and safe to transplant into humans (xenotransplants).

Food quality traits

  • Animals have been genetically engineered to produce certain traits in the food products or by products they produce
  • For example, Goats have been genetically engineered to produce milk with strong spiderweb-like silk proteins in their milk.
  • Animals have also been GE’d to change the way they digest to be more environmentally friendly too

Human gene therapy

  • Gene therapy, uses genetically modified viruses to deliver genes which can cure disease in humans.

Conservation Use

  • To conserve certain types and species of animals

– wikipedia.org

 

Fish

  • Genetically modified fish are used for scientific research – in genetics and development
  • Genetically modified fish are used as pets – such as the Glofish,
  • Genetically modified fish are being considered for use as food – in the aquaculture industry to increase the speed of development and potentially reduce fishing pressure on wild stocks. Salmon (by AquaBounty) is a fish that has been approved for marketing in the US. Trout and tilapia are other fish types that are under development
  • Genetically modified fish are being developed to detect aquatic pollution.

– wikipedia.org

 

Frogs

  • Genetically modified frogs are used for scientific research and are widely used in basic research including genetics and early development.

– wikipedia.org

 

Invertebrates

Fruit Flies

  • In biological research, transgenic fruit flies are model organisms used to study the effects of genetic changes on development.

Mosquitoes

  • In 2010, scientists created “malaria-resistant mosquitoes” in the laboratory.

Bollworms

  • A strain of Pink Bollworm has been genetically engineered to express a red fluorescent protein.

Cnidaria

  • Cnidaria such as Hydra and the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis are attractive model organisms to study the evolution of immunity and certain developmental processes.

– wikipedia.org

 

Sources

1. https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-basics

2. https://msutoday.msu.edu/feature/2018/gmos-101/

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism 

4. https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/10-reasons-why-we-dont-need-gm-foods#close 

5. http://earthopensource.org/gmomythsandtruths/sample-page/summary/ 

Types Of GMO Crops & Foods, What Traits They’re Engineered For, & What They’re Used For

Types Of GMO Crops & Foods, What Traits They're Engineered For, & What They're Used For

In this very short guide, we outline the common types of GMO Crops and Foods grown and available commercially in a few different countries.

We also outline the genetic traits engineered into these crops and foods, and what they are used for.

 

Types Of GMO Crops & Foods

  • There are 10 genetically modified crops commercially available in the US today: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.
  • The majority of these crops, like alfalfa, field corn and soy are actually used for livestock feed. Other uses for these crops include common food ingredients, such as sugar, canola oil, corn starch and soy lecithin. You may find only a few of these in your produce section: rainbow papaya, summer squash, sweet corn, potatoes and apples.

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • In the US, by 2014, 94% of the planted area of soybeans, 96% of cotton and 93% of corn were genetically modified varieties. 

– wikipedia.org

 

  • In recent years, GM crops expanded rapidly in developing countries. In 2013, approximately 18 million farmers grew 54% of worldwide GM crops in developing countries.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Globally, food-producing animals consume 70% to 90% of genetically engineered crop biomass, mostly corn and soybean. In the United States alone, animal agriculture produces over 9 billion food-producing animals annually, and more than 95% of these animals consume feed containing GE ingredients. 

– forbes.com

 

GMO Crops & Foods In The United States – What Genetic Traits They Are Engineered For, & What They’re Used For

There are 10 genetically modified crops commercially available in the US today. The traits they are engineered for and the uses they have are:

Alfalfa

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Herbicide Tolerance
  • Used For: Animal feed

Apples

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Non Browning
  • Used For: Food

Canola

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Herbicide tolerance
  • Used For: Cooking oil, animal feed

Field Corn

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Insect resistance, herbicide tolerance, drought tolerance
  • Used For: Livestock feed, poultry feed, fuel ethanol, high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, corn oil, starch, cereal and other food ingredients, alcohol, industrial uses

Sweet Corn

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Insect resistance, herbicide tolerance
  • Used For: Food

Cotton

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Insect resistance, herbicide tolerance
  • Used For: Fiber, animal feed, cottonseed oil

Rainbow Papaya

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Disease resistance
  • Used For: Table fruit

Potatoes

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Reduced bruising and black spots, non browning, low acrylamide (a chemical that can form when certain starchy foods are cooked or processed, and is linked to cancer in rats), blight resistance (blight is a fungal disease that affects tomatoes and potatoes)
  • Used For: Food

Soybeans

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Insect resistance, herbicide tolerance
  • Used For: Livestock and poultry feed, aquaculture, soybean oil (vegetable oil), high oleic acid (monounsaturated fatty acid), biodiesel fuel, soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, other foods, lecithin, pet food, adhesives and building materials, printing ink, other industrial uses

Summer Squash

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Disease resistance, food
  • Used For: Food

Sugar Beets

  • Genetic Traits (engineered for): Herbicide tolerance
  • Used For: Sugar, animal feed

– gmoanswers.com

 

GMO Crops & Foods In Australia – What Genetic Traits They Are Engineered For, & What They’re Used For

A country like Australia has far more restrictive regulations on growing GE foods and crops than the United States.

 

In 2016, there are only two commercial GM broad-acre crops grown in Australia:

  • GM cotton – More than 99% of planted cotton in Australia is GM.There are three types of GM cotton in use and all are owned by Bayer or Monsanto, which are on the brink of merging. Two of these cottons are herbicide-tolerant to help the control of weeds, and the other has an inbuilt resistance to a pest, reducing the need for insecticides.
  • GM canola – There are six types of GM canola licenced for use in Australia. All have been developed to be resistant to the herbicides used to control weeds. Five of these are owned by Bayer or Monsanto.

These are both found in many margarines and frying oils. 

Other GM crops being developed and trialled around Australia (but not yet commercially available) include sugarcane, safflower, banana, wheat, barley and white clover.

– choice.com.au

 

Growing GE Food vs Importing GE Food Ingredients

A country like Australia that is restrictive on growing GE (genetically engineered) foods may make more of an allowance for imported GE food ingredients.

For example, in Australia, they allow the following GE food ingredients in common foods available in supermarkets:

  • Imported GM (genetically modified) soya
  • Imported GM corn
  • Imported GM sugar beet
  • Cottonseed oil from GM cotton
  • Imported GM potatoes
  • GM canola

– choice.com.au

 

Sources

1. https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-myths-vs-facts

2. https://gmoanswers.com/sites/default/files/GMOA-GeneticTraits10crops-4x6_Postcard-Jan2018.pdf

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism 

4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/#526d98a68a63 

5. https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-safety/articles/are-you-eating-gm-food#2%20what%20GM%20foods%20are%20grown%20in%20australia?

What Are GMOs – A Brief Overview

What Are GMOs - A Brief Overview

In this short guide, we have outlined:

  • what a GMO is
  • genetically altered vs transgenic organisms
  • what GMO foods and crops are (crops or plants that have certain genes turned off or moved, or have external genes added from another organism to add a desired trait to that crop or plant, such as pest or drought resistance)
  • and some common types of GMOs 

 

What Are GMOs?

  • A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering.
  • In most cases, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, be it a bacterium, plant, virus or animal; these organisms are sometimes specifically referred to as “transgenic” organisms (because their genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism).

– livescience.com

 

  • A GMO is a genetically modified organism.
  • At its most basic, genetic modification is the process by which changes occur in an organism’s genome. 
  • Changes to an organism’s genome can occur naturally (from the sun’s radiation for example), or as a result of human induced change (which is what we are generally talking about when we say GMO).
  • The first way humans modify an organism’s genes is through selective breeding for specific characteristics. We’ve seen this for hundreds of years with wolves and dogs, and with plants.
  • The second way, which is a newer biotechnology technique, is through genetic engineering. Scientists use biotechnology to insert one or more genes from one organism into another to give the second organism the specific trait controlled by the transferred gene or genes

– msutoday.msu.edu

 

Genetically Altered vs Transgenic Organism

A small way to further classify GMOs is by distinguishing between:

  • Genetically Altered Organism – typically organisms whose genetic makeup has been altered without the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism. e.g. turning off or moving a certain genetic trait
  • Transgenic Organism – an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered by the addition of genetic material from an unrelated organism. e.g. adding a desirable genetic trait to one organism from another organism 

– wikipedia.org

 

What Are GMO Foods & Crops

  • When people refer to genetically modified organisms – GMOs – they are referring to crops developed through genetic engineering, a more precise method of [both selective and advanced] plant breeding. 
  • Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. i.e. they can turn off or move an existing genetic trait, or insert a new desirable trait
  • For example, certain crops and foods like tomatoes, soybeans, corn and so on, can have desirable genes added for drought, pest, or disease resistance.

– gmoanswers.com

There is a good infographic which shows selective breeding and genetic engineering at https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-basics 

 

Some Different Types Of GMOs

Some of the types of organisms that have been genetically modified are:

Microorganisms

  • Bacteria
  • Virus
  • Yeast

Plants

  • Crops (food, and fibres/seeds like cotton)
  • Conservation

Mammals

  • Research Use
  • Human therapeutics and xenotransplants
  • Food quality traits
  • Human gene therapy
  • Conservation Use

Fish

Frogs

Invertebrates

  • Fruit Flies
  • Mosquitoes 
  • Bollworms
  • Cnidaria

– wikipedia.org

 

Sources

1. https://msutoday.msu.edu/feature/2018/gmos-101/

2. https://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html

3. https://gmoanswers.com/gmo-basics 

4. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2018/12/04/gmos-101-experts-break-down-the-basics-of-crop-biotechnology/ 

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism 

Where & How To Buy Organic Cotton: A Short Checklist

Where & How To Buy Organic Cotton: A Short Checklist

Whether it’s your first time or not, you might want to know where and how to buy organic cotton.

In this very short checklist, we’ve given you some of our best tips in order to make sure you know what you’re paying for, and how find it.

 

Where To Buy Organic Cotton

Online

  • Search through Google for the type of organic product you want e.g. ‘organic cotton bed sheets’, and go to a brand’s website

In Store

  • Go to a shop in your local area that sells cotton products – you could also do a Google search before you head out ‘organic cotton [name of your town or city]’

 

What To Look For When Buying Organic Cotton

There’s probably two things you want to look for:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Symbol – which addresses the textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions. GOTS cotton has to meet certain environmental, social and quality standards in order to be certified
  • A statement that some type of traceability standard is being used that is enforced by an accredited third-party certification body. You can then go check that body’s standards yourself. They should cover everything from the farms that follow organic practices, to factories that process organic cotton separately from conventionally grown cotton, and for shipments of organic cotton between different companies in the supply chain i.e. the whole production and supply chain.

Other certifications and accreditation certificates like quality accreditations, USDA’s National Organic Program, Fairtrade, Fair Wear and Carbon Neutral accreditations might also be of interest to you.

Online

  • Look at the individual product description for mention that certification or accreditation applies
  • Look at the ‘About’ section on the website for a description of all products listed on the website, and that certification is mentioned

In Store

  • Look on the product tag or label for certification symbols

 

Before You Buy Organic Cotton

 

What To Avoid When Buying Organic Cotton

  • Products that say ‘organic’ without providing any certification/accreditation symbols, labels or guarantees/information on how it it was grown, produced and supplied, along with standards.

The Truth About Organic Cotton – Is It Worth The Money/Should You Buy It?

The Truth About Organic Cotton - Is It Worth The Money?

When you hear about organic cotton, you probably want to know whether or not the money you spend on it is really worth it.

When you buy organic cotton – what exactly are you supporting?

In this guide, we look to outline some of the truths about organic cotton, and discuss whether you should consider buying it.

 

Summary: Is Organic Cotton Worth The Money/Should You Buy It?

To cut to the chase – not all products advertised as containing ‘organic’ cotton are the same.

A company might use the word ‘organic’ as a marketing tactic, although in certain countries like the US, products using the word organic may have to meet minimum requirements – such as those outlined by the USDA.

When buying organic cotton, it might be best to look for products that have GOTS certification.

A product containing GOTS certified cotton means that you can be assured that cotton has been grown, harvested and produced according to the criteria (which you can read on the GOTS site) set out by GOTS.

What exactly you are getting with a GOTS certified cotton product?

Well, their criteria in general is based around meeting environmental, social and quality standards.

So, if buying cotton that has been grown and produced in a way that has certain environmental, social and quality benefits is important to you – you might consider buying organic cotton.

If not, you would consider regular cotton.

The problem with regular cotton is that unless it is certified in some way (which it usually isn’t) – you have no way of knowing the criteria for how it has been grown and produced.

You may pay a cheaper price for regular cotton because of things like better yields, more efficiency and subsidies for farmers – which is then passed onto you as the consumer.

But, you usually don’t know if the environment, animals and humans have paid a price for growing and producing that cotton.

 

What Is Organic Cotton?

Organic cotton in general is really cotton that:

  • uses natural inputs (pesticides and fertilizers) and natural production processes (production bleaches, dyes etc.) over synthetic ones
  • and uses natural cotton seeds over GMO/Bt cotton seeds

You can read more specifically about what organic cotton is in this guide. You can also read about the impact of regular cotton in this guide 

 

What Is Certified Organic Cotton?

Certified Organic Cotton is cotton that certified by a certifying body as meeting the criteria outlined in their standard.

GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is considered a leading certifying body – you can read more about GOTS Certified Organic Cotton in this guide.

 

  • Companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Organic Exchange (OE) Blended or OE 100 standard, tracing the organic fiber from the field to finished product. Many manufacturers have also become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which addresses textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.

– ota.com

 

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Organic Cotton?

Some potential pros and cons of organic cotton to note are (this is not a full list):

  • Pros – less pollution to water, air and soil overall, lower carbon footprint, safer and healthier for cotton farm workers, less damage to wildlife, softer cotton, more crop biodiversity
  • Cons – more land use, lower yield, lower profits and revenues to farmers, more time intensive, some natural pesticides can still be as harmful as synthetic ones, more expensive to buy for consumers

Read a comprehensive guide of the pros and cons of organic cotton in this guide.

 

Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton – What Are The Differences?

There can be various differences between organic cotton and regular cotton.

Read more about those differences in this comparison guide on organic cotton vs regular cotton.

 

Other Notes On Cotton

  • Neither regular cotton nor organic cotton are perfect solutions in terms of impact on humans, the environment, wildlife, and quality and price for the consumer – each have a distinct set of pros and cons
  • The future of cotton may be to combine the best parts of regular and organic cotton to create the highest net positive cotton process, instead of separating the two
  • Where the cotton is grown, how it’s grown, how it’s produced – all are huge variables with cotton production that can be hard to full measure the impact of. For example, water use is not as big of an issue in cotton production if majority of water use is from rainfall compared to irrigated cotton using freshwater sources (which can be depleted and run scarce in dryer and hotter climates)

 

Other Tips On Buying Fibre Products

If you don’t like the sound of organic cotton, you might keep in mind the following tips:

  • Look at other fabrics which might be sustainable (hemp, tencel, bamboo etc.)
  • Look for Fairtrade products which support the rights of workers and business owners in developing countries and areas
  • Consume less products in general, and buy high quality so it lasts longer – good for sustainability
  • Buy secondhand and re-use products where you can – good for sustainability
  • When you wash and dry your clothes – try to use water and energy efficient devices

All these tips can reduce your impact on humans, animals and the environment if that is your preference. They can also give you other options if price and quality of the product is important to you.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-impacts-of-growing-producing-using-cotton/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-cotton/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-know-if-cotton-is-organic-gots-certification-other-standards/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-is-organic-cotton-exactly/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/organic-cotton-vs-regular-conventional-cotton-differences-which-is-better/

6. https://www.ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/Organic-Cotton-Facts.pdf

7. https://fashionhedge.com/2015/03/12/the-truth-about-organic-cotton/

Organic Cotton vs Regular/Conventional Cotton: Differences, & Which Is Better?

Organic Cotton vs Regular/Conventional Cotton: Differences, & Which Is Better?

Organic cotton vs regular cotton – what are the differences, and which one is better if you are looking to buy a product with cotton in it?

In this comparison guide, we’ve looked to provide answers to those questions.

Let’s take a look at the two.

 

Summary: Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton – Which Is Better?

The best way of answering that question is with another question – is it important to you to know how the cotton you buy is grown/harvested, produced and the impact it has on the environment, humans and wildlife?

If not, regular cotton is a better option.

With most regular cotton, you don’t know how it is grown and produced. You may pay a lower price for regular cotton – but it’s possible the environment, other humans or animals had to pay a price that you don’t see as the buyer (especially when you consider potential subsidies given to conventional cotton).

On the other hand, certified organic cotton can give you an idea of the criteria cotton has had to pass in it’s growing and production process in order to get to you – the consumer.

This criteria might involve environmental, social, quality requirements be met in order to obtain certification.

You have a level of certainty with what you are buying (i.e. knowing in some way how it was grown and produced).

 

Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton – What Are The Major Differences?

There’s two major differences:

  • Synthetic vs Natural Chemicals – Organic cotton stays away from synthetic chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers, and also in the production process (bleaches, dyes etc) – instead using more natural/organic farming resources, and organic production processes. Regular cotton in particular is known to be one of the dirtiest crops in terms of pesticide use in the world, and is responsible for a lot of water pollution through the use of chemicals in the production process
  • GMO/Bt vs Natural Cotton Seeds – Organic cotton uses natural cotton seeds over the GMO/Bt cotton seeds used by regular cotton

You can read more specifically about what organic cotton is in this guide. You can also read about the impact of regular cotton in this guide 

 

Organic Cotton vs Regular Cotton – Are There Any Other Differences?

Apart from the main two differences, there are many other differences between organic cotton and regular cotton – mainly with how the cotton is grown/harvested, and then produced in production facilities.

You can read more about those differences in this guide on the pros and cons of organic cotton.

If we had to summarise those differences over different areas, some of them might be (this list is not full list):

  • Water Use – compared to most crops, cotton in general uses a lot of water. Some sources say organic cotton uses less water than regular cotton. Something you have to consider with regular cotton is that even if the cotton needs less water to grow, you still have to consider the water that is lost through water pollution due to pesticide use, and toxic chemicals in the production process. Also, consider that a country like India (at this point in time) uses about double the global average of water to produce the same 1kg of cotton Western countries might. So, country and location plays a part too.
  • Carbon Footprint & Energy Use – various sources say organic fibres have a smaller carbon footprint than regular fibres over the life cycle of growing and producing the fibre into a final product.
  • Land Use – many sources say regular cotton has a better yield than organic cotton. A better yield means you can grow more cotton on less land.
  • Overall Pollution – organic cotton probably causes less water, land and air pollution than regular cotton. Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and production chemicals can be responsible for a range of environmental issues like water contamination, acidification, eutrophication, decreasing air quality, climate change, soil contamination and more.
  • Impact On Wildlife – organic cotton is probably less harmful to wildlife because it pollutes ecosystems less.
  • Use Of GMOs – some people see GMO use with regular cotton as risky, while some see it as beneficial. GMOs definitely have benefits – such as decreasing the amount of pesticides regular cotton needs, decreasing the amount of water regular cotton needs, making cotton seeds more drought resistant, making greater yields, and increasing revenue. But, some worry they decrease crop and plant biodiversity, and can create super pests which become resistant to pest control.
  • Safety/Health For Farm Workers, & Owners – one of the big issues in developing countries is that pesticides can be very harmful to cotton workers’ health. Organic cotton may be safer for cotton farmers and workers who are at risk of breathing in and coming into contact with pesticides
  • Working Conditions For Farm Workers, & Owners – certified organic cotton can also be Fairtrade cotton which makes for better and fairer working conditions for cotton farmers and workers. Regular cotton may not enforce fair and reasonable working conditions for those who grow and produce the cotton products we use.
  • Revenue & Profitability – several sources say regular cotton produces more revenue and profitability with less land and greater yields.
  • Time & Effort Efficiency To Grow & Produce – several sources say regular cotton requires less time and is more efficient to grow and harvest.
  • Quality of the cotton – some people say organic cotton is softer and better quality because the fibres from organic cotton seeds are longer. This can depend on the length of the growing seasons though, and where the cotton is grown.
  • Price of the cotton for the consumer – regular cotton is heavily subsidised in some countries which can contribute to a lower price. In general, organic cotton might be more expensive than regular cotton to buy – some of this can also be because of the increased time needed and lower yield efficiency of growing organic cotton.

 

Not All Organic Cotton Is The Same

When we talk about organic cotton – there are different types available on the market.

Some cotton is labelled as ‘organic’ simply as a marketing strategy by companies. You might not know what makes this cotton organic.

But, other cotton is labelled as ‘100% certified organic cotton’ or similar, and might have a certification symbol or label.

The good thing about cotton with a certified piece of cotton is you can go to the certifying body’s site and look at the criteria they require in order for cotton to be certified by them.

At the moment, one of the leading bodies for certification is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).

You can read more about what GOTS is, what their criteria involves and where to read more about them in this guide.

 

Regular vs Organic Cotton – Comparing The Growing & Production Process

As a specific example, Organic Cotton Plus have provided a helpful comparison table, comparing their organic cotton to conventional/regular cotton.

You can see some of the distinct differences between the two at each stage of the growing/harvesting and production process:

 Organic CottonConventional/Regular Cotton
Seed PreparationNatural, untreated GMO free seeds.Typically treated with fungicides or insecticides. Possible GMOs.
Soil PreparationHealthy soil through crop rotation. Retains moisture in soil from increased organic matter.Synthetic fertilizers, loss of soil due to mono- crop culture, intensive irrigation.
Weed ControlHealthy soil creates natural balance. Beneficial insects and trap crops used.Aerial spraying of insecticides and pesticides. Nine of the most commonly used pesticides are known cancer-causing agents.
HarvestingNatural defoliation from freezing temperatures or through the use of water management.Defoliation induced with toxic chemicals.
ProductionWarp fibers stabilized using double-plying or nontoxic cornstarch.Warp fibers stabilized using toxic waxes.
WhiteningSafe peroxide is used.Chlorine bleaching creates toxic by-products, which are released into the environment.
FinishingSoft scour in warm water with soda ash, for a pH of 7.5 to 8.Hot water, synthetic surfactants, additional chemicals (sometimes formaldehyde).
DyeingLow-impact fiber-reactive or natural dyes with low metal and sulfur content.High temperature containing heavy metals and sulfur.
PrintingLow-impact, water-based inks and/or pigments with no heavy metals.Pigments may be petroleum based and contain heavy metals. Run-off spills into waterways, polluting streams.
Fair TradeSocial criteria in place to ensure safe, healthy, non-abusive, non discriminatory environment with living wages.No social screening. Possible child or forced labor used. Facilities may be unsafe and unhealthy.
MarketingPositive story can be told to differentiate you from your competitors.None. As awareness of organic advantage expands, increased potential for negative image.
PriceInitial cost more expensive. Long-term advantages: priceless.Initially cheaper. Long-term impact on environment: devastating.

– organiccottonplus.com

 

Other Notes On Organic & Regular Cotton

  • Regular and organic cotton both have their pros and cons
  • Regular cotton is not all bad – water efficiency is becoming better as irrigation systems and biotechnology improves, and pesticide use is decreasing on some farms due to biotechnology (seeds are becoming more pest resistant). Land use and land efficiency has also increased about 50% in the last 40 years. But, cotton is still one of the highest water usage and highest synthetic pesticide and fertilizer using crops
  • Organic cotton is not all good – organic pesticides aren’t all harmless, and the organic farming method might produce lesser yields and lesser revenues and profits for farmers for the same plot of land
  • The one big advantage of certified organic cotton is having some idea of how it’s grown and produced
  • The future of cotton may be to combine the best parts of regular and organic cotton to create the highest net positive cotton process, instead of separating the two
  • Where the cotton is grown, how it’s grown, how it’s produced – all are huge variables with cotton production that can be hard to full measure the impact of. For example, water use is not as big of an issue in cotton production if majority of water use is from rainfall compared to irrigated cotton using freshwater sources

 

Other Options Other Than Organic & Regular Cotton

If you don’t like the sound of either organic or regular cotton, you might keep in mind the following tips:

  • Look at other sustainable fabrics (hemp, tencel, bamboo etc.)
  • Look for Fairtrade products
  • Consume less products in general, and buy high quality so it lasts longer
  • Buy secondhand and re-use products where you can
  • When you wash and dry your clothes – try to use water and energy efficient devices

All these tips can reduce your impact on humans, animals and the environment if that is your preference. They can also give you other options if price and quality of the product is important to you.

 

Sources

1. https://organiccottonplus.com/pages/learning-center

2. https://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html

3. https://qz.com/990178/your-organic-cotton-t-shirt-might-be-worse-for-the-environment-than-regular-cotton/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-impacts-of-growing-producing-using-cotton/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-advantages-disadvantages-of-organic-cotton/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-to-know-if-cotton-is-organic-gots-certification-other-standards/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-is-organic-cotton-exactly/

Pros & Cons (Benefits & Disadvantages) Of Organic Cotton

Pros & Cons (Benefits & Disadvantages) Of Organic Cotton

If you’re thinking of buying organic cotton, you will want to know the potential benefits and disadvantages of this type of cotton.

In this guide, we outline an extensive list of possible pros and cons, and other factors that you may consider.

 

Summary – Pros & Cons Of Organic Cotton

Pros

  • There can be less synthetic chemicals used overall
  • The cotton seed growing and harvesting process can be cleaner and more natural
  • The production process (dying, bleaching etc.) can be cleaner
  • There can be less use of synthetic pesticides
  • There can be less use of synthetic high nitrogen fertilizers
  • There can be less chance of pesticide resistant pests developing, and secondary pests developing
  • There can be less toxic run off of synthetic chemical into freshwater sources (and less water pollution)
  • There can be less air pollution
  • There can be less greenhouse gas emissions
  • There can be less embodied energy used
  • There can be better crop diversity (less mono cultural crops)
  • There can be better soil health (and less soil contamination)
  • The impact on wild life and their eco systems can be lessened
  • There can be lesser health impact on humans that work in the cotton industry
  • There can be better and fairer conditions for cotton workers, and cotton farmers (especially in developing or poorer countries)
  • There can be less fresh water/irrigated water usage and less water usage overall
  • Less of a reliance and usage of GE cotton seeds
  • Overall independence and leverage of cotton farmers can increase long term with less reliance on resources and inputs (that cost money and put farmers in debt)
  • Yields of organic cotton can be as good or better than conventional cotton in some instances
  • Organic farming overall as a practice has many sustainable benefits
  • Organic cotton can be softer than regular cotton

 

Cons

  • In some cases, it can use more water
  • In some cases, there can be a lower yield for the same area of land
  • When yields are lower, organic cotton uses more land to produce the same amount of cotton
  • Organic agriculture can be less efficient and produce less revenue comparatively in some instances
  • Can sometimes produce higher greenhouse gases (when yields are lower)
  • Can be more labor and time intensive
  • The conversion process over to certified organic farming can be slow (up to 2 years)
  • Organic farming can carry some short and long term risk for farmers
  • Farmers or supply lines can struggle to meet demand and increase market share because of quality assurance and regulations/standards
  • Can be more expensive to buy than conventional cotton
  • Doesn’t have the subsidies or protection that conventional cotton does in some countries
  • Some people think GMO seed benefits outweigh the risks, putting organic cotton at a disadvantage by ruling them out altogether
  • Some natural pesticides can be as harmful as synthetic ones
  • Can sometimes be more unsustainable than conventional cotton in some sustainability indicators

NOTE: The pros and cons listed above and below are of a general nature. The final pros and cons of organic cotton all depend on who you are buying the cotton from, where it’s sourced and grown (the country is grown in, the farm it’s grown on, and supply chain it’s sourced through), and how its produced overall

So, there are variables at play.

Certified organic cotton can provide more certainty with you buying decision than non certified organic cotton.

There’s a difference between certifying bodies with comprehensive quality and standards assurance, and simple/misleading marketing by cotton suppliers or textile sellers. There’s also a difference between how different countries and farms might grow their cotton (in a sustainable/organic, or non-sustainable and more conventional way).

 

What Is Organic Cotton

Generally, organic cotton is cotton that is grown and produced with less synthetic chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers), and no GMO (genetically modified) seeds – compared to regular cotton.

You can read more about what organic cotton is in this guide.

 

Overall, Is Organic Cotton Better Than Regular Cotton?

It’s possible organic cotton is better in some areas compared to regular cotton, but worse in others.

So much depends on the geographic location of the farm where the cotton is grown, methods used to grow the cotton (e.g. whether the cotton is irrigated or rain fed), and then how the cotton is produced into a cotton product (dying, bleaching etc).

If you believe overall that organic farming practices, use of natural pesticides, fertilizers and production chemicals compared to synthetic chemicals, and use of natural cotton seeds (compared to GMO seeds) is a good thing – organic cotton might be a good purchase for you.

You can have some level of certainty of what the organic cotton you buy has taken to grow and produce by buying GOTS Certified Organic Cotton – read more about what GOTS Certified Organic Cotton is in this guide.

One of the good things about GOTS Certified Cotton is they tell you the criteria to expect from products with their certification on them – environmental, social, quality criteria and so on.

For a better idea of what benefits and disadvantages organic cotton provides – let’s look at the complete list of potential pros and cons…

(NOTE: some of the pros and cons contradict each other because of the variability of farming and production methods and conditions, complexity of supply chains, available study and analysis data, and so on – new age organic products are constantly developing and changing too.)

 

Potential Pros & Benefits Of Organic Cotton

  • Less synthetic chemicals used overall

Where organic cotton may have an advantage is in using fewer chemicals. It still uses chemicals, just naturally derived ones, which advocates say are less harmful—though there’s some evidence to suggest that certain organic pesticides can be worse for the environment than conventional ones. But particular chemicals used in conventional farming have raised serious concerns, such as glyphosate, a widely used herbicide that’s the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller brand, which the World Health Organization has deemed a “probable carcinogen” based on studies of workers who used the product. (There’s no evidence to suggest that wearing clothing made from cotton grown with the chemical is harmful.)

– qz.com

 

Environmentally conscious shoppers should also be aware that how their cotton is grown isn’t the only question to ask. Before that organic cotton garment can make it to a store, it must be dyed and finished—one of the dirtiest and most chemically intensive steps in making clothes. Unless your organic-cotton garment is certified under a program such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, it is near impossible to guess whether the dyeing processes used were organic or not.

– qz.com

 

According to Textile Exchange, adoption of preferred cotton production methods has increased to 8.6% of the overall cotton market, and of those methods, organic cotton has the lowest environmental impact as it doesn’t use any toxic chemicals or genetically modified seeds.

– sourcingjournal.com

 

Conventional cotton production has resulted in reduced soil fertility, loss of biodiversity, and life-threatening health problems to those who have been exposed repeatedly to toxic chemicals used in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides.

White cotton covers just 2.5% of the planet’s total agricultural area, it uses 7% of all pesticides and 16% of all insecticides with entire chemical companies making neurotoxic formulas just to support cotton. Conventional cotton relies on these chemicals for production.

These strong chemicals are subsequently released into the environment and pollute and distort ecosystems. These chemicals are also said to have harmful effects on farmers’ health.

– frankandoak.com

 

Organic cotton uses:

Pesticides (insecticides and herbicides) –  innovative weeding strategies are used instead of herbicides; beneficial insects and trap crops control insect pests; and alternatives to toxic defoliants prepare plants for harvest

Fertilizer – Composted manures and cover crops replace synthetic fertilizers

– business-ethics.com

 

Chemicals used to grow conventional cotton have tremendous impact on the earth’s air, water, soil, and the health of people in cotton-growing areas. They are among the most toxic chemicals as classified by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The problem is even worse in developing countries with uninformed consumers, and lack of stable institutions and property rights. In addition to destroying the land, thousands of farmers die from exposure to these chemicals every year.

– organiccottonplus.com

 

Global organizations estimate thousands of people exposed to the chemicals used in non-organic cotton production die of cancer, poisoning, and miscarriages each year. Many also suffer from birth defects and other diseases such as asthma. The exposure to these toxic chemicals is taking its toll mostly in developing countries, such as India and Uzbekistan.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • The cotton seed growing and harvesting process can be cleaner and more natural

Conventional cotton might involve synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, GMO seeds (about 70% of cotton seeds are GMO in the US), soil loss due to single cultivation, and leaves removed by toxic chemical defoliant.

Organic cotton might involve no synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, no GMO seeds, good soil maintained through crop rotation, and removal of leaves and weeds through freeze drying and water.

– frankandoak.com

 

  • The production process (dying, bleaching etc) can be cleaner

Conventional textile processing is highly polluting – it uses many chemicals, and pollutes a lot of water

GOTS certification covers the production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, exportation, importation and distribution of all natural fibers; that means, specifically, for example: use of certified organic fibers, prohibition of all GMOs and their derivatives; and prohibition of a long list of synthetic chemicals (for example: formaldehyde and aromatic solvents are prohibited; dyestuffs must meet strict requirements (such as threshold limits for heavy metals, no  AZO colorants or aromatic amines) and PVC cannot be used for packaging).

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

  • Less synthetic pesticides

Organic cotton uses natural pest control

Regular cotton consumes 16% of the world’s insecticides and requires $2 Billion in pesticides each year. Pesticides and insecticides used in cotton production contaminate the soil we use to grow crops, the air we breathe and the water we drink. The deaths of animals exposed to these contaminants is counted in the millions every year.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • Less chance of pesticide resistant pests developing, and secondary pests developing

Because synthetic pesticides aren’t used, which can cause pests to develop a resistance to them

 

  • Less synthetic fertilizers

Organic cotton farming relies on good soil health with soil nutrients to help the cotton grow, instead of synthetic fertilizer

Conventionally grown cotton also uses large amounts of nitrogen-based synthetic fertilizer—almost a third of a pound, says the OTA, to grow one pound of raw cotton. To put that in perspective, it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt. Researchers have found that the fertilizers used on cotton are the most detrimental to the environment, running off into freshwater habitats and groundwater and causing oxygen-free dead zones in water bodies. The nitrogen oxides formed during the production and use of these fertilizers are also a major part of the agricultural sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

– business-ethics.com

 

  • Less toxic runoff into freshwater sources and the ocean

Both synthetic pesticides and fertilizers can sink into the soil and down into ground water aquifers, as well as run off into streams, rivers and into the ocean

This run off can cause water pollution, acidification, eutrophication, damage to wildlife and more

 

  • Less air pollution

Fertilizer production and use can emit gases that pollute the air and reduce air quality e.g. nitrous oxide from nitrogen fertilizers

 

  • Less greenhouse gases, less energy intensive and smaller carbon footprint

Organic cotton is 46 percent less harmful to global warming

– sourcingjournal.com

 

Organic cotton can reduce demand for energy by as much as 62 percent.

– sourcingjournal.com

 

The energy used (and therefore the CO2 emitted) to create 1 ton of spun fiber is [higher for conventional cotton than organic cotton]. The KG of CO2 emissions per ton of spun fiber for conventional cotton (USA) is 5.90, compared to 3.80 for organic cotton (India) and 2.35 for organic cotton (USA)

Substituting organic fibers for conventionally grown fibers is not just a little better – but lots better in all respects:  uses less energy for production, emits fewer greenhouse gases and supports organic farming (which has myriad environmental, social and health benefits).

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

A study published by Innovations Agronomiques (2009) found that 43% less GHG are emitted per unit area under organic agriculture than under conventional agriculture.

A study done by Dr. David Pimentel of Cornell University found that organic farming systems used just 63% of the energy required by conventional farming systems, largely because of the massive amounts of energy requirements needed to synthesize nitrogen fertilizers.

Further it was found in controlled long term trials that organic farming adds between 100-400kg of carbon per hectare to the soil each year, compared to non-organic farming.  When this stored carbon is included in the carbon footprint, it reduces the total GHG even further.

The key lies in the handling of organic matter (OM): because soil organic matter is primarily carbon, increases in soil OM levels will be directly correlated with carbon sequestration. While conventional farming typically depletes soil OM, organic farming builds it through the use of composted animal manures and cover crops.

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

Global consumption of non-organic cotton releases huge amounts of greenhouse gas into our atmosphere, about 220 million tonnes a year. 1 tonne of conventional cotton fiber produces 1.8 tonnes of CO2e

Organic cotton produces around 46% less CO2e compared to conventional cotton.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • Better Crop diversity – no monocultures

Conventional cotton farming focusses on cotton monocultures

Organic farming focuses on crop diversity and crop rotation – producing a more diverse crop culture

 

  • Better soil health and less soil contamination

With organic cotton, the potential for soil erosion drops 26 percent

– sourcingjournal.com

 

Crop rotation with organic farming keeps soil health up

 

  • Lesser impact on wildlife and their ecosystems

Pesticides and fertilizers can pollute the habitats animals live in – both on land and in water

Chemicals used during cotton textile production also pollute water and can get into aquatic ecosystems

 

  • Lesser health impact on humans that work on the cotton farms (not exposed to pesticides)

Especially in developing countries, cotton farm workers can be exposed to pesticides and other chemicals

They can breathe in these chemicals and touch them with their skin, which can lead to a range of health issues and sickness, and sometimes death

 

  • Possibly better and fairer work conditions for farm workers

GOTS certified organic cotton for example places and emphasis on social/ethical cotton – where workers have access to a safe and fair work environment

About 100 million households are engaged in growing and producing cotton and 300 million people work in the cotton sector as a whole.

The majority of [non-organic] cotton farmers and workers live in developing countries, work extremely long hours, are exposed to poisonous substances daily and earning very little in wages.

In fact, many of them have unsustainable debts because they are unable to keep up with employer demands. Other factors such as climate change, decreasing prices of cotton and tough competition from farmers in rich countries don’t make it any easier.

Sadly, suicide rates among cotton farmers have been high in the last 20 years. In the year of 2013 alone 11,772 farmers committed suicide in India, that’s 44 farmers a day!

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • Possibly better and steadier pay for farm owners

Organic farming may ensure farmers receive a premium for their organic cotton, and this pay may be more steadier than conventional cotton which can rise and fall with world markets

 

  • Less water pollution

Organic cotton results in 70 percent less acidification of land and water

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • Less need for freshwater use, and less water usage overall

With organic cotton, surface and groundwater use falls 91 percent

– sourcingjournal.com

 

Organic cotton production also has a lower net water use because it uses no chemicals. Encouragingly, India currently produces two-thirds of the world’s organic cotton. However, this is just 2% of the country’s cotton acreage.

– theguardian.com

 

The notion that chemical cotton uses less water than organic cotton is false

Taking a T-shirt, Textile Exchange said, to produce it, conventional cotton would use 2,168 gallons of water compared to 186 for organic (a difference of 1,982 gallons). To make a pair of jeans, conventional cotton would take 9,910 gallons of water compared to 932 with organic (a savings of 8,978 gallons).

The real issue about water is pollution. Toxic chemicals used in conventional cotton production are poisoning the very water it claims to save

– sourcingjournal.com

 

It takes 2700 litres of water to produce one cotton t shirt

1 billion people don’t have access to freshwater and 2.4 billion people suffer from inadequate sanitation. Millions of people, mostly young children, die each year due to water-borne illnesses caused by inadequate sanitation and lack of water. Yet we still use 10,000 liters of water to process just one single kilo of conventional cotton.

Organic cotton uses far less [fresh] water to grow since organic cotton growers typically utilize rain far more than irrigation.

– swedishlinens.com

 

  • Doesn’t use genetically modified seeds

Organic cotton places an emphasis on the use of natural cotton seeds over genetically modified cotton seeds

Some people worry about the effects GMO seeds might have on wildlife, plants and the ecosystem in the future, and on the biodiversity of crops and plants.

Regular cotton is one of the crops most intensively reliant on big GMO seed companies like Monsanto. With 83 percent of cotton coming from GMO seeds, it one one of the top four GMO crops produced in the world alongside soy (89 percent), canola (75 percent) and corn (61 percent)

– triplepundit.com

 

  • Less reliance on certain resource inputs overall – fertilizers, pesiticides, chemicals, GMO seeds – which can increase independence and decrease some costs for farmers

Organic cotton has less of a reliance on non natural resources, and more reliance on the natural land, soil etc.

This lessened reliance decreases some costs, and creates more independence for farmers

With seeds in particular, some developing country farmers may go into debt buying non renewable seeds from cotton seed suppliers. If they don’t make a profit in that season, they can go into debt and never pay that debt off

Organic cotton seeds that are renewable may help developing country farmers recover debt with more consistency over the long term and give them a better chance of success for their farming operations

There’s one major company that has a monopoly on GMO cotton seeds

This company continuously increase seed prices, throwing farmers into more and more debt, and destroying their financial freedom and independence

Their seeds are also non renewable – which means farmers much buy more and more of them

There’s thousands of farmer suicides in India yearly – and debt may be a reason why

– thegreenhubonline.com

 

  • Yields in organic cotton can be good

In drought years, yields were higher in organic systems, and an analysis by Seufert et all found that yields in organic farming systems with “good management practices” can almost match conventional cotton yields.

“Chemically intensive agriculture, especially in irrigated systems, push the ecosystem year-on-year for higher yields,” Textile Exchange said. “This requires the use of an ever-increasing amount of chemical inputs, including growth regulators.”

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • Organic farming overall seems like a good and sustainable practice

Organic farming helps to ensure other environmental and social goals:

– eliminates the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisims (GMOs) which is  an improvement in human health and agrobiodiversity

– conserves water (making the soil more friable so rainwater is absorbed better – lessening irrigation requirements and erosion)

– ensures sustained biodiversity

– and compared to forests, agricultural soils may be a more secure sink for atmospheric carbon, since they are not vulnerable to logging and wildfire.

Organic agriculture is an undervalued and underestimated climate change tool that could be one of the most powerful strategies in the fight against global warming, according to Paul Hepperly, Rodale Institute Research Manager. The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial (FST) soil carbon data (which covers 30 years)  provides convincing evidence that improved global terrestrial stewardship–specifically including regenerative organic agricultural practices–can be the most effective currently available strategy for mitigating CO2 emissions.

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

Textile Exchange found Organic farming (before actual production) was “significantly more environmentally friendly”. It also found that organic cotton farming is less likely to contribute to global warming, acidification, and eutrophication than conventional cotton farming.

– textileexchange.org

 

  • Organic cotton can be softer than regular cotton

Some people will say that organic cotton is softer than regular cotton because the fibres are longer

This may be true in some instances

But, not all organic cotton is grown and produced the same way, and the quality of cotton and how it feels can be influenced by the climate/temperature in which it’s grown, how long it grows for and where it’s grown

For example, if the growing season is longer in one place than another, the cotton plant has more time to grow. This is just one of many potential factors that might determine the quality of cotton in general

 

Potential Cons & Disadvantages Of Organic Cotton

  • Might use more water

It will take you about 290 gallons of water to grow enough conventional, high-yield cotton to produce a t-shirt, according to Cotton Inc. To grow the same amount of organic cotton for a t-shirt, however, requires about 660 gallons of water.

For a pair of jeans, organic takes around 2641 gallons, while regular takes around 1135 gallons of water.

– qz.com

 

[Some sources say] organic cotton actually requires less water over time, in large part because soil with more carbon from organic matter stores water better.

But generally a cotton plant requires the same amount of water whether it’s organic or not, and non-organic farmers also use plenty of methods to keep their soil healthy.

– qz.com

 

The main environmental concern with water use relates to irrigation, especially in countries such as India, struggling with water scarcity. But about half of cotton crops globally—organic and conventional—get their water from rainfall, according to Cotton Inc. The most water-efficient option is that rain-fed cotton, but there’s no way to know whether the cotton in the t-shirt you’re buying was that variety, or whether it required additional water.

– qz.com

 

Each [cotton] farm and geographic region of the world will have different water usage and impacts

– sourcingjournal.com

 

Cotton Inc. reports that it takes 1,098 litres of water to grow enough cotton to make a t-shirt from a conventional cotton plant. To make the same t-shirt from organic cotton you would need over double that – 2,500 litres of water.

– frankandoak.com

 

Conventional cotton, as well as organic, requires an enormous amount of water. One kilogram from cotton fibre (the amount you need to make a pair of jeans) needs between 7,000 and 29,000 litres of water. An alarming number in a world of increased water scarcity.

– frankandoak.com

 

  • A possible lower yield for the same area of land

Conventional cotton varieties have a higher yield, meaning a single plant will produce more fiber than its organic counterpart.

That’s because conventional cotton has been genetically engineered for that purpose. In the past 35 years, cotton yields have risen 42%, largely due to biotechnology and better irrigation techniques.

– qz.com

 

One study found that the average organic yield of cotton was 25% lower than conventional.

– frankandoak.com

 

  • If yields are lower, organic uses more land for the same amount of cotton compared to conventional cotton

To get the same amount of fiber from an organic crop and a conventional crop, you’ll have to plant more organic plants, which means using more land.

– qz.com

 

  • Organic farms use more land and labour to produce the same amount of produce as conventional agriculture. That’s the major reason you pay more for organic products.
  • Adoption [of GM] would massively improve the productivity of organic agriculture, and the productivity boost would help make organic food price competitive.

– theconversation.com

 

  • Might go against some sustainability objectives

If a farm uses more water, land and energy to grow their organic cotton – this can go against some sustainability objectives

 

  • Organic agriculture can be less efficient and produce less revenue comparatively

Organic agriculture is less efficient, meaning that the same amount of resources produce a lower volume of product, compared to traditional farming.

This is extremely important, because if we are talking about sustainability, the scarcity of resources has to be taken into account: world hunger and clean water are two areas in which efficiency is capital to build a sustainable future.

A 2001 study on organic cotton farming efficiency conducted in Greece, showed that organic farms produced only 73% of the yield of those of a conventional farm and 86% of the revenue (p. 40).

More recently, a study published in Nature titled Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture revealed that: The average organic-to-conventional yield ratio from our meta-analysis is 0.75 (with a 95% confidence interval of 0.71 to 0.79); that is, overall, organic yields are 25% lower than conventional.

– fashionhedge.com

 

  • Possibly higher greenhouse gas emissions

The lower yields of organic crops have even been linked to higher greenhouse-gas emissions on the industrial farms producing them. And how far cotton travels before it winds up in your closet should factor into the environmental equation too.

– qz.com

 

  • More labor and time intensive

Because organic cotton requires more quality assurance and checking, and better care must be taken of the land and soil – organic cotton growing and production can be more labor intensive and take far more time from growing to production compared to regular cotton

 

  • The conversion process over to organic farming can be slow – up to around 2 years

Farms converting from conventional to organic cotton farming may find that the conversion process can be slow

It may take up to 2 years to fully transition while doing a conversion, whilst new farms may be much quicker

 

  • Can struggle to meet demand, and increase market share 

Properly certified organic cotton can take time to set up the supply lines and production facilities

Because of this, organic cotton may have a slower time meeting increased demand and scaling up compared to regular cotton

Higher costs of organic cotton (due to subsidies for regular cotton)…

the system that put control of inputs like seeds into the hands of a few big companies — organic seeds are difficult to procure and distribute to farmers. Even when they are available, getting them to farmers in developing countries where most cotton currently comes from is a challenge, as is building the capacity of these farmers to be able to go organic farming and receive necessary certifications…

the timeliness of payment and market access…

the risk of investment made by the farmer…

[are all] challenges [organic cotton is having] in growing its market share and making a strong business case for companies to shift to organic

Companies can’t just purchase more organic cotton; they need to work with suppliers to ensure both quality and transparency along the entire chain. That includes working with initiatives like the Organic Cotton Roundtable to build farmer capacity to produce more organic cotton

Consumer awareness and demand also needs to increase for organic cotton to become more prominent

– triplepundit.com

 

  • Can be more expensive to buy organic cotton for consumers

Consumers buying organic cotton clothing for example from a shop, may find that certified organic cotton products are slightly more expensive than regular cotton

Some of this has to do with the fact that regular cotton is so heavily subsidised in some countries compared to organic coton

A massive subsidy is why non-organic cotton remains much, much cheaper than organic cotton.

The question isn’t why organic ‘costs’ more, it should be why conventional production is allowed to avoid taking responsibility for so many costs [such as environmental and social costs ]

– triplepundit.com

 

  • Some people think GMO seed benefits outweigh the risk

Some people think that the benefits of GMO seeds which may include resistance against pests, droughts, heat etc., less water required, and increased yields, outweigh the potential risks such as creating super pests and GMO seeds eliminating natural seeds and natural plant life

In Burkina Faso in Africa, documented farmer benefits [of Bt cotton] include a 20% yield increase compared to conventional cotton, a pesticide use reduction of about 67%, while cotton profits were elevated by US$64 per hectare – a 51% increase in previous income levels.

– theconversation.com

 

In the most comprehensive meta-analysis (of 147 publications) to date, researchers from Goettingen University have concluded that the adoption of GM technology has:

  • Reduced pesticide use by 37%
  • Increased crop yield by 22%
  • Increased farmer profits by 68%.

The yield and profit gains are considerably higher in developing countries than in developed countries, and 53% of GM crops are grown in developing countries.

In 2012, a joint Chinese-French study on GM cotton showed that insecticide usage more than halved, and the survival of beneficial insects had a positive impact on pest control. Since they adopted genetically modified Bt cotton, India has been producing twice as much cotton from the same land area with 65% less insecticide.

– theconversation.com

 

  • Some natural pesticides can be as harmful as some synthetic ones

According to FashionHedge.com, some natural pesticides can be as harmful as some of the synthetic ones used

– fashionhedge.com

 

Case Studies Of Small Organic Cotton Farmers

Cambridge did a case study of ‘organic cotton production on the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Odisha, India’.

A summary of what they found from farmers who converted to organic cotton farming was:

  • farmers profit from organic agriculture, mainly due to soil improvements, through reduced exposure to toxic chemicals and lower input costs, which in turn reduces dependency on money lenders.
  • Organic agriculture enables smallholder farmers in the study region to improve their livelihood by providing access to training and by organizing in groups.
  • Important social impacts identified in this study were capacity building and strengthened communities, through training and institution building.
  • However, a higher workload, due to the higher work intensity of organic farming practices, was also observed, with this impacting women more than men.
  • Environmental conditions and gender aspects still remain challenging.

– cambridge.org

 

In the Chihuahuan Desert in North America, GMO cotton has provided the following benefits on one particular farm:

  • A decrease in insecticide applications from 13, to zero
  • An increase in beneficial insects
  • A decrease in secondary pests
  • A decrease in the amount of herbicide sprayed
  • A cleaner cotton product (since it uses less pesticides overall)
  • Cleaner water (since there’s less pesticide)
  • Cleaner air (since there’s less pesticide)
  • Better soil health (since there’s less tillage – because less weeds have to be cleared)
  • A decrease in labor (since there’s less spraying and tillage that has to happen)

– kissedafarmer.blogspot.com

 

Sources

1. https://qz.com/990178/your-organic-cotton-t-shirt-might-be-worse-for-the-environment-than-regular-cotton/

2. https://sourcingjournal.com/topics/raw-materials/report-truth-organic-cotton-impacts-68512/

3. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/estimating-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-fabric/

4. https://www.frankandoak.com/handbook/style/organic-cotton-pros-cons

5. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/20/cost-cotton-water-challenged-india-world-water-day

6. Altenbuchner, C., Vogel, S., & Larcher, M. (2018). Social, economic and environmental impacts of organic cotton production on the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Odisha, India. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 33(4), 373-385. doi:10.1017/S174217051700014X – https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems/article/social-economic-and-environmental-impacts-of-organic-cotton-production-on-the-livelihood-of-smallholder-farmers-in-odisha-india/922E6662E3D82E3B34CA119BC43F6F4A

7. https://textileexchange.org/downloads/life-cycle-assessment-of-organic-cotton/

8. http://business-ethics.com/2010/08/07/1438-the-bad-side-of-cotton/

9. https://fashionhedge.com/2015/03/12/the-truth-about-organic-cotton/

10. https://thegreenhubonline.com/2018/05/08/why-should-we-choose-organic-cotton/

11. https://organiccottonplus.com/pages/learning-center#questions-and-answers

12. https://www.swedishlinens.com/blogs/news/organic-vs-conventional-cotton

13. https://www.triplepundit.com/special/cotton-sustainability-c-and-a-foundation/the-challenges-to-expanding-organic-cotton/

14. https://theconversation.com/why-genetically-modified-crops-have-been-slow-to-take-hold-in-africa-44195

15. https://theconversation.com/gm-crops-can-benefit-organic-farmers-too-51318

16. http://kissedafarmer.blogspot.com/2012/11/a-buggy-full-of-gmo-cotton.html

The Present & Future Of The Cotton Industry (Regular, & Organic): Stats, Trends & More

The Present & Future Of The Cotton Industry (Regular, & Organic)

Cotton is an important fibre.

It’s one of the most widely grown crops in the world, and is used in a lot of the clothes we wear.

In this guide, we look at the present and future stats, trends and challenges of the cotton industry – for both regular, and organic cotton.

 

Summary – Present & Future Of The Cotton Industry

  • Conventional cotton is a widely used fibre – around half of all textiles contain cotton
  • As a crop, it sits within the top 20 most valuable agricultural crop and livestock products
  • It employs hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and many farmers
  • It employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries
  • Organic cotton represents about 0.7 percent of global cotton production
  • Nineteen countries are farming the organic cotton—India is making the lion’s share of it (67 percent). 
  • The US is probably to top consumer of organic cotton
  • Conventional cotton receives many subsidies and also doesn’t pay heavy penalties for a lot of the environmental and social harm it can do
  • Conventional cotton is improving in some sustainability measures over time – such as mount of land and water required to grow cotton in some countries. GE seeds are also in some cases decreasing the amount of pesticide it needs. Having said that, countries like India still use almost double the global average of water to produce 1kg of cotton
  • Overall, all cottons should look to be less harmful and more sustainable over time with water use (decrease water use, or increase rain fed crops), decreasing water pollution, decreasing pesticide use, bettering social impact & worker’s rights/conditions (particularly in developing countries), bettering farmer’s conditions (particularly in developing countries), and becoming better aware of the long term impact of using GE cotton seeds
  • The cotton industry is steadily improving, but there’s still a lot that can be done to ensure it is more eco friendly, sustainable, safer and fairer

 

Value Of The Overall Cotton Industry Overall, & Employment Numbers

  • In 2012, the global value in billions of US dollars of cotton fibre crops was $37 billion US dollars
  • This value sits within the top 20 of all crops and livestock products, with rice, cattle meat and pig meat topping the list

– wikipedia.org

 

  • The world cotton market [as a whole] was estimated at USD $77 billion for 2014/15

– cottonaustralia.com.au

 

  • Cotton provides income for more than 250 million people worldwide and employs almost 7% of all labor in developing countries. Approximately half of all textiles are made of cotton.

– worldwildlife.org

 

  • Approximately 75% of our clothing incorporates cotton. 300 million farmers in 80 countries rely on the cotton industry for their livelihood.

– thegreenhubonline.com

 

How Much Cotton Is Grown Worldwide In Total

  • 50% more cotton is produced worldwide today on the same amount of land as compared to 40 some years ago
  • cotton occupies less than 3% of the world’s agricultural land
  • cotton production provides two crops with each seasonal harvest: cotton fiber, which currently supplies 30% of the world’s textile fiber needs, and cottonseed, a source of nutritious cooking oil and a protein-rich supplement for dairy cattle and aquaculture feeds

– cottontoday.cottoninc.com

 

The land Area and Relative Proportion of the 18 Major Crop Categories in the world are:

CropArea, 1000 km2Relative Fraction, %
Wheat4,02822
Maize2,27113
Rice1,95611
Barley1,5809
Soybeans9275
Pulses7944
Cotton5343
Potatoes5013
Sorghum5013
Millet3312
Sunflower2902
Rye2882
Rapeseed/canola2832
Sugar cane2651
Groundnuts/peanuts2471
Cassava2351
Sugar beets1541
Oil palm fruit72<1
Total of major 18 crops15,25685
Others266415
Total cropland17,920100

– agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com

You can also read about the geographical distribution about which countries the major crops are found in at:

  • https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2003GB002108

 

How Much Cotton Is Produced A Year In Total

  • 29 million tons of cotton are produced a year – The same as 29 t-shirts for everyone on Earth.
  • But, the consumption of cotton varies a lot. In some Western countries, we use an amount of cotton that would corresponds to more than 100 t-shirts per person.

– theworldcounts.com

 

  • More than 100 countries in the world grow cotton (source: ICAC 2012)
  • Cotton accounts for about 31% of worldwide fibre production (source: Australian Grown Cotton Sustainability Report, 2014)
  • The global 20 year average (1993/94 to 2013/14) annual planted area is 33 million hectares of cotton (source: Bremen Cotton Exchange, 2014) producing about 26 million tonnes of lint each year
  • Average world cotton yields reached 780 kilograms of lint per hectare in 2013/14, up markedly from 230 kilograms of lint per hectare in the 1950s (source: Bremen Cotton Exchange 2014)

– cottonaustralia.com.au

 

Countries That Produce The Most Cotton In Total

In 2014/15, the major cotton producing countries overall were:

  • China: 33.0 million bales
  • India: 27.0 million bales
  • United States: 18.0 million bales
  • Pakistan: 10.3 million bales
  • Brazil: 9.3 million bales
  • Uzbekistan: 4.6 million bales
  • Australia: 1.9 million bales
  • Turkey: 2.8 million bales
  • Turkmenistan: 1.6 million bales
  • Greece: 1.4 million bales

– cottonaustralia.com.au

 

How Much Organic Cotton Is Grown & Produced

  • 193,840 farmers produced 112,488 metric tons of organic cotton in 2015.

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • According to the 2011 Textile Exchange Organic Cotton Farm & Fiber Report, approximately 151,079 metric tons (MT) of organic cotton (693,900 bales) were grown on 324,577 hectares (802,047 acres) in 2010-2011. Organic cotton now equals 0.7 percent of global cotton production.

– ota.com

 

  • Organic cotton now equals 0.7 percent of global cotton production.
  • Approximately 219,000 farmers grew the fiber.

– organiccottonplus.com

 

  • The OTA reports that American farmers increased plantings of organic cotton by 26 percent in 2009 over 2008, while sales of organic cotton fiber grew 10.4 percent (to $521 million) during the same time.

– business-ethics.com

 

  • U.S. organic cotton production continues to increase, encouraged by consumer and corporate demand, price premiums, and regulatory shifts that facilitate clear labeling for organic cotton products
  • According to an OTA survey of U.S. organic cotton production, undertaken with funding from Cotton Incorporated, the number of acres planted with organic cotton in the U.S. increased 36 percent from 2009-2010 while bales harvested were up nearly 24 percent. U.S. producers harvested 11,262 acres of organic cotton in 2010, representing 95 percent of planted acres, and yielding 13,279 bales
  • While 2011 saw the largest number of acres planted since 1999, harvested acres and bales are expected to be down by 38 and 45 percent, respectively, due to a devastating drought in the Southern Plains. In fact, the extremely dry conditions in Texas forced farmers there to abandon more than 65 percent of their planted crop in 2011.
  • A modest acreage gain of two percent is forecast for 2012, bringing plantings of U.S. organic cotton to 16,406 acres. Another two percent net gain is in the five-year forecast, bringing the total to 16,716 acres. Opportunity exists for significant expansion of U.S. organic acreage most likely in nascent organic cotton-growing regions such as North Carolina, which harvested its first crop of organic cotton in 2011.

– ota.com

 

Value Of The Organic Cotton Market

  • Global sales of organic cotton products totaled $15.76 billion in 2015.

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • According to a report by Textile Exchange 2010 Global Market Report on Sustainable Textiles, global sales of organic cotton apparel and home textile products reached an estimated $5.16 billion in 2010. This reflects a 20 percent increase from the 2009 market.

– organiccottonplus.com

 

Countries That Grow & Consume The Most Organic Cotton

  • Nineteen countries are farming the fiber—India is making the lion’s share of it (67 percent)

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • India grows the great majority of the world’s organic cotton, and the US is probably the biggest organic-cotton consumer. Meanwhile, Sweden’s H&M, which manufactures much of its clothing in Asia, has been labeled its top user. (Of course, conventional cotton also can be—and often is—sold far from where it was grown.)

– qz.com

 

  • Organic cotton was grown in 20 countries worldwide in 2010­-11, led by India, and including (in order of rank): Syria, China, Turkey, United States, Tanzania, Egypt, Mali, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Pakistan, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Benin, Paraguay, Israel, Tajikistan, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Senegal.

– organiccottonplus.com

 

The Future Of Organic Cotton – Growth, & Challenges

  • The main challenge is that the market doesn’t work properly – current economic rules don’t attach environmental and social costs to conventional cotton production, so the mainstream market is given a massive hidden subsidy as society and the environment bear these costs instead of the conventional producers
  • This massive subsidy is why non-organic cotton remains much, much cheaper than organic cotton
  • The question isn’t why organic ‘costs’ more, it should be why conventional production is allowed to avoid taking responsibility for so many costs
  • This is one reason that organic cotton is having numerous challenges in growing its market share and making a strong business case for companies to shift to organic
  • Other reasons might be…
  • Organic cotton can be difficult to find while shopping
  • Organic cotton can be expensive to buy when shopping
  • Control of inputs like seeds are put into the hands of a few big companies — organic seeds are difficult to procure and distribute to farmers. Even when they are available, getting them to farmers in developing countries where most cotton currently comes from is a challenge
  • Building the capacity of small farmers to be able to go to organic farming and receive necessary certifications is also a challenge
  • With organic cotton – Prices, the timeliness of payment and market access are not always strong enough to offset the risk of investment made by the farmer
  • Companies can’t just purchase more organic cotton; they need to work with suppliers to ensure both quality and transparency along the entire chain. That includes working with initiatives like the Organic Cotton Roundtable to build farmer capacity to produce more organic cotton. Companies that understand this are the ones who will benefit

– triplepundit.com

 

Organic cotton has some positive signs…

  • In 2014, organic cotton reversed a three-year trend and grew globally by 10 percent. More and more retailers, like C&A, which topped Textile Exchange’s 2014 Report for volume of organic cotton use, are incorporating organic cotton into their supply chains.
  • The most successful brands and retailers are implementing new ways of sourcing that involve a more direct relationship with producers, with longer term commitments that incentivize cotton farmers to go organic
  • The final piece of the puzzle is customer demand for organic cotton – If more companies see a market for organic clothing products, then this can help address the challenges facing organic cotton all along its supply chain.
  • Raising consumer awareness about the benefits of organic cotton is therefore very important
  • With more impetus from companies, greater consumer demand and increased advocacy from organizations like Textile Exchange – organic cotton can continue to grow

– triplepundit.com

 

  • What’s next for organic cotton…
  • Brands have steadily been foraying further into the use of organic cotton and, by volume, the five biggest users are: C&A, H&M, Tchibo, Inditex and Nike. And in the years ahead, Textile Exchange expects those volumes will continue to grow.
  • “Alongside the multiple ‘homes’ in which organic cotton resides, the organic movement is continuously evolving. While the core principles of organic remain intact, the priorities have evolved as the organic movement matures from the beginning phase, of establishing the standard, to building the market for organic products through certification and labeling, which has been the focus in more recent years,” Textile Exchange wrote in the report. “Now, we are moving on to become more inclusive as a movement, accounting for impact, and factoring in continuous improvement, as this is being referred to as Organic 3.0.”

– sourcingjournal.com

 

  • In 2011, organic fiber sales in the United States grew by 17.1 percent over the previous year, to reach $708 million, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2012 Organic Industry Survey. The future looks promising, with organic fiber products appearing in more mainstream outlets, led by large and small U.S. textile retailers alike.

– ota.com

 

GOTS certified organic cotton facilities are growing…

  • The number of facilities certified to GOTS shows an increase of 8.2%, from 4,642 facilities in 2016 to 5,024 facilities in 2017

– organic-market.info

 

  • Apparel companies are developing programs that either use 100 percent organically grown cotton, or blend small percentages of organic cotton with conventional cotton in their products. There are a number of companies driving the expanded use of domestic and international organic cotton. For a current list of OTA members with products containing organic fiber, visit The Organic Pages Online™ at http://www.ota.com/.

– ota.com

 

  • Companies are increasingly becoming certified to traceability standards such as the Organic Exchange (OE) Blended or OE 100 standard, tracing the organic fiber from the field to finished product. Many manufacturers have also become certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which addresses textile’s processing stages and includes strong labor provisions.

– ota.com

 

Organic cotton is currently being used for:

  • organic cotton fiber is used in everything from personal care items (sanitary products, make-up removal pads, cotton puffs, ear swabs), to fabrics, home furnishings (towels, bathrobes, sheets, blankets, bedding, beds), children’s products (toys, diapers), and clothes of all kinds and styles (whether for lounging, sports or the workplace).
  • In addition, organic cottonseed is used for animal feed, and organic cottonseed oil is used in a variety of food products, including cookies and chips.

– ota.com

 

In the US:

  • The Farm Act has been increasing the spending on organic agriculture, reaching $100 million in research, $15 million in program enforcement and $57.5 million in certification funding for small producers in 2014
  • These are huge increases from 2002 levels – so this is a positive indicator for organic agriculture like organic cotton

– fashionhedge.com

 

Conventional/Regular Cotton Is Improving In Several Areas Over Time

Improvements with regular cotton have mainly been made with more efficient water use (through improved irrigation), and increased yields (through genetic engineering) over the years

 

  • the use of sprayed insecticides is quickly decreasing [with regular cotton] with the advent of genetically engineered cotton seeds that have insecticides bred right into them. A third of global cotton cropland and 45 percent of world cotton production now uses genetically engineered seeds. This poses a whole other set of issues, as some scientists fear that the proliferation of such “Frankenseeds” can lead to pest immunities and even the unleashing of so-called “super pests” that can resist virtually any pesticide.

– business-ethics.com

 

Where Cotton Farming, Production & Consumption Might Look To Improve Overall

Some ways to improve the cotton industry might be to:

  • Increase the amount of rain fed cotton (as opposed to cotton fed by irrigated fresh water) – this would not only save water, but enable freshwater to be re-distributed to those without access to drinking water (especially in places like India)
  • Decrease the amount of harmful pesticides, and fertilizer inputs required to grow cotton
  • Decrease the amount of water pollution that happens during cotton production from chemical dyes, bleaches etc.
  • Keep GMO cotton safe, and use biotechnology only for the benefit of everyone in cotton growing
  • Increase predictability and stability of cotton farming for cotton farmers in developing countries – increase their independence by not having to rely on companies with monopolies who supply cotton seeds, pesticides, fertizliers etc.
  • Make working conditions fairer and better, and decrease risk to personal health cotton workers in developing or poor areas
  • Increase awareness among consumers of how cotton is grown and produced

 

Countries like India can improve…

  • Rather than matching production of goods to the sustainable use of existing water resources, India, like governments around the world, hopes to use engineering to increase the amount of water. Instead, India could grow cotton in less arid regions with more efficient irrigation and fewer pesticides to greatly reduce the crop’s impact on water resources.

– theguardian.com

 

  • Maintaining market share (especially in Asia), enhanced consumer awareness and continued investments in research and development (of new innovations and products) are needed to keep the U.S. cotton industry advancing

– cottongrower.com

 

  • The cotton industry has been linked to forced labor and farmers suicides, but this does not depend on the crop being grown organically or not; the unsustainable volumes are driven by global apparel demand and the culture of fast fashion, among other factors.
  • Slow fashion and slower, higher quality consumerism could be part of the solution to this

– fashionhedge.com

 

Other Cotton Stats Of Note

  • A U.S. bale of cotton weighs around 500 pounds, and one bale alone can produce 215 pairs of jeans, 250 single bed sheets, 750 shirts, 1,200 t-shirts, 2,100 pairs of boxer shorts, 3,000 diapers, 4,300 pairs of socks, or 680,000 cotton balls

– gmoanswers.com

 

  • Seventy-five percent of all cotton produced worldwide in 2015 was genetically modified. In the U.S., 93 percent of all cotton currently grown is GMO cotton.

– gmoanswers.com

 

Sources

1. https://qz.com/990178/your-organic-cotton-t-shirt-might-be-worse-for-the-environment-than-regular-cotton/

2. https://organiccottonplus.com/pages/learning-center

3. https://sourcingjournal.com/topics/raw-materials/report-truth-organic-cotton-impacts-68512/

4. https://www.triplepundit.com/special/cotton-sustainability-c-and-a-foundation/the-challenges-to-expanding-organic-cotton/

5. https://thegreenhubonline.com/2018/05/08/why-should-we-choose-organic-cotton/

6. https://www.frankandoak.com/handbook/style/organic-cotton-pros-cons

7. https://fashionhedge.com/2015/03/12/the-truth-about-organic-cotton/

8. https://www.ota.com/sites/default/files/indexed_files/Organic-Cotton-Facts.pdf

9. http://business-ethics.com/2010/08/07/1438-the-bad-side-of-cotton/

10. https://cottonaustralia.com.au/cotton-library/fact-sheets/cotton-fact-file-climate-change

11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_valuable_crops_and_livestock_products

12. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton

13. http://organic-market.info/news-in-brief-and-reports-article/gots-certified-facilities-increase-82-in-2017.html

14. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/20/cost-cotton-water-challenged-india-world-water-day

15. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2003GB002108

16. https://cottontoday.cottoninc.com/agriculture-4/land/

17. http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/cotton_environmental_impacts/world_cotton_production_statistics

18. https://cottonaustralia.com.au/cotton-library/fact-sheets/cotton-fact-file-the-world-cotton-market

19. https://www.cottongrower.com/opinion/several-factors-vital-to-u-s-cotton-industry-growth/

20. https://gmoanswers.com/other-uses-gmos