Did you read my first post about The True Cost? Yes? Then let’s talk about cotton. Genetically modified cotton to be specific.
Need to watch The True Cost?
It came as no surprise to learn that cotton is used to produce almost half of all garments across the world. Cotton’s good right? It’s natural? Well yes and no. More than 90% of all of this cotton is actually genetically-modified. This means the use of vast quantities of water and chemicals. Chemicals that are pretty much untested as far as the impact on the environment and human health goes.
Genetically modified cotton is meant to reduce the need for pesticides as it produces an natural alternative. However, this is actually ineffective against many pests that eat cotton. This means that over time an increased amount of insecticides need to be used on crops to combat pest resilience.
Effects of genetically modified cotton
Before I saw The True Cost, I had absolutely no clue about the shockingly high rate of farmer suicides in India. These suicides are linked by many to Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds. The high cost of seeds, and apparent unreliability of crops, means that thousands of farmers have found themselves with crushing amounts of debt. The problem is so widespread that the Indian government stepped in last year with a $1.3bn insurance scheme. Monsanto seem to be the only winners here, as farmers have to buy fresh supplies of genetically modified seeds each year.
It isn’t just its farmers in India that are suffering as this interview with Larhea Pepper shows.
Growing cotton really takes its toll on the environment. For starters, 20,000 litres of water are needed to produce enough cotton for a t-shirt, and as 20 million tonnes are produced every year, that’s an amazing amount of water. That’s before we even think about bleaching and dyeing the finished fabric and the water pollution that causes.
Soil also suffers when cotton is grown intensively. It becomes less fertile. Of course, the chemicals required also leach into the soil, which in turn impact what is subsequently grown.
Most people I know avoid genetically modified food. They believe it to be worse for them, and the environment, than organically grown alternatives. So why on earth do the same people then buy clothes made from genetically modified cotton and have these textiles next to their skin; the largest organ of their bodies? Genetically modified cotton has not been tested for long term health implications; but why are we taking the risk?
Of course, for the people who grown cotton and live in the surrounding areas, they don’t have a choice. Their water can be polluted, their land ruined by chemicals. This pollution then affects the food supply, which in turn affects people’s health. There are villages in India where babies are born with various birth defects, and where cancer is rife. Parents are literally waiting for their children to die. This isn’t right.
This skirt that I recently wrote about was made in India. John Lewis, thus far, haven’t shed any light on its manufacture, but I can’t help but assume it’s not a story I want to know…
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