Regular cotton is grown using more agricultural chemicals that any other crop in the world. For years the global demand for cotton was met through this method; however since the 1970s evidence of the adverse impact these chemicals have on workers and the surrounding environment began to emerge. Meanwhile, with the advance in technology to manipulate genes, the use of genetically engineered seeds has seen a sharp growth worldwide as a means of producing big yields of high quality cotton. In India, a major cotton producer, genetically engineered cotton now accounts for more than 90% of the total. However genetic engineering technology cannot be accepted in the organic world. In order to sustain organic cotton, the procurement of non-GE seeds has emerged as a pressing issue.
Global cotton production for 2011-2012 totaled around 27 million tons. Of that, production of organic cotton was a mere 138 thousand tons, not even 1% of the total. Organic cotton is produced in 18 countries including India, Turkey, China, Tanzania and America. Following is a summary of the state of production during this season.
Record droughts in Texas caused the national organic cotton yield to drop 45% from the previous year.
Organic cotton production is expanding rapidly in Africa. Blessed with plentiful rainfall, Tanzania saw a 153% growth in production from the previous year.
Increase in crop land lead to a 64% increase in production for Turkey.
While small in scale, production in Nicaragua increased 190%.
India saw a large drop in production last year due to an increase in genetically modified seeds, however still remains the world leader in organic cotton production at 74% of the global yield.
Syria has been the second largest producer after India, however political turmoil and ensuing conflict has made production and inspection work impossible, leaving no data for this season.
(Source：Textile Exchange Farm & Fiber Report 2011-2013)
With the release of the annual report, it is apparent how strongly organic cotton production is influenced by weather conditions and political situations. The towels we make at IKEUCHI ORGANIC are directly linked to this ever changing world. Organic cotton reflects the emotions of people in the surrounding world. We take that organic cotton and constantly endeavor to simply make towels with it. At the rapidly changing forefront of organic cotton, we continue to produce premium towels.
Genetically modified seeds may not be used in organic farming. However there has recently been a rapid global increase in use of genetically modified seeds for many major crops including cotton. To continue growing organic cotton under these circumstances, bioRe India is working with a local agricultural university and Swiss Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL) to grow native varieties of cotton that are suited to local conditions and maintain seed stock. They also implement a strict management system to ensure that genetically modified seeds do not mix with non-genetically modified seeds.
The only way to purchase organic cotton seeds is directly from breeders who can ensure they are not genetically modified. Field tests to check for genetically modified cotton involve compressing cotton leaves and stems, mixing the extracted liquid with a test agent and watching for a reaction on a test strip. These tests are conducted regularly by bioRe staff and if results show the presence of genetically modified seed, the cotton from that field must be sold as regular and not organic cotton even if agricultural chemicals and chemical fertilizers have not been used.
The bioRe project maintains transparent traceability through the whole manufacturing process ensuring genetically modified seeds are not used for growing organic cotton. After eliminating the possibility of genetically engineered seeds, farmers grow the cotton each year and harvest cotton as well as seeds for the next season’s crop. This natural process is repeated every season in the fields, spinning together an organic future.