Let us make some clarifications: organic cotton means cotton comes from organic farming, that is cotton grown according to the specification that regulates organic certification; while conventional cotton is cotton from chemical farming and is often GMO (in fact the world's major cotton producers are China, the United States and India, which are also among the top 5 countries using GMO crops according to ISAAA data - International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications).
Although the hectares earmarked for the cultivation of cotton represent only 2.4% of the world's agricultural land, it is dramatic to use 25% of the insecticides and 11% of the total pesticides.
In 2014 a study on the life cycle of organic cotton (Life Cycle Assessment LCA) compares the data on organic cotton production with those related to the production of conventional cotton. The results underline the reduction of the environmental impact of organic cotton compared to the chemical one, in fact the probability of contributing to global warming is reduced by 46%. Specifically, the cultivation of organic cotton reduces the consumption of water by 91%; 62% of primary energy consumption; 26% eutrophication (accumulation of pesticides in the surrounding waters); 70% of the emissions causing acidification.
To better understand the environmental and social impact in the light of the mentioned data we recall the tragic history of Lake Aral located between the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This lake from 1960 to 2007 has reduced its waters by 90% due to the massive withdrawal of water to irrigate large cotton plantations also causing serious pollution problems due to the massive use of chemicals. Moreover, considering that the local population survived thanks to fishing, this disaster has had major social consequences. Probably this massacre could be avoided with the planting of organic cotton plantations.
Organic cotton production accounts for 1% of world production and is struggling to take off compared to organic food production. Surely the fact that cotton is not swallowed results in the eyes of many less interesting and goes into the background compared to food products. But on an environmental level, as we have just seen, this is not the case and using clothes made from organic cotton is very important. It therefore seems that the main obstacle to overcome is a certain widespread selfishness even if paradoxically one forgets that we too are part of the environmental system and that all the damage we cause to the planet is turned against us.
Analyzing also the data of the processing and packaging of finished garments opens a chapter equally worrying with the final result that in the various industrial phases the use of chemicals can safely reach 1kg for every 1kg of manufactured textile items. This has a great environmental impact in terms of pollution and social because it exposes workers in the textile industry to continuous exposures with chemical products. For this reason it is preferable to opt for organic cotton garments that certify the origin of the raw material and which also bear certifications regarding the processing of the garment. All these processes are certified by various national and international brands: Icea, Gots, Ivn, Oeko text, Fair Trade, ...