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
- 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
- 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
- For items like shopping bags, organic cotton can be worse environmentally
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Organic cotton can reduce demand for energy by as much as 62 percent.
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).
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.
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.
- 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
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!
- 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
- Less need for freshwater use, and less water usage overall
With organic cotton, surface and groundwater use falls 91 percent
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.
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
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.
- 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)
- 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
- 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.”
- 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.
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.
- 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.
[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.
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.
Each [cotton] farm and geographic region of the world will have different water usage and impacts
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.
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.
- 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.
One study found that the average organic yield of cotton was 25% lower than conventional.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 ]
- 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.
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.
- 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
- For items like shopping bags, organic cotton can be worse environmentally
Some studies and reports indicate that organic cotton shopping bags are worse environmentally than cotton and even plastic shopping bags.
A Danish study compared the environmental impact of different carrier bags, and found organic cotton bags have to be used 20,000 versus 7,000 times for regular cotton bags, to have the same environmental impact as plastic bags across a range of environmental indicators.
An assumption was made that organic cotton yields lower than regular cotton, so the inputs were higher for organic cotton, but benefits of organic cotton like less fertilizer and pesticide use were taken into account.
Read more on this in these resources:
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.
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)
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