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About Organic Cotton

The real cost of conventional cotton


Conventional cotton is grown using 1/3 of a pound of synthetic fertilizers to grow one pound of raw cotton in the US; that one pound of raw cotton barely suffices to make one single t-shirt. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are the most detrimental to the environment, leaching and running off into freshwater habitats and wells. Emissions Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are also a major contributor to increased N2O emissions, which are 300 times more potent than CO2 as greenhouse gas. Pesticides Cotton is vulnerable to pests; hence, pesticides are heavily used in conventional cotton production. Pesticides currently used include highly hazardous substances to human and animal health: orthophosphates such as phorate and methamidophos, endosulfan (highly toxic to farmers) and aldicarb. Other pesticides are no longer in use in the USA today, but their long breakdown period and difficulty in removal ensure their persistence in cotton fields: Trifluralin, Toxaphene and DDT. Thus even organic cotton fields may contain them since conventional cotton fields can be transitioned to organic fields in 2–3 years. Three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the WHO, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production. All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous. Aldicarb, cotton's second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater (Source: OTA website) GMO Conventional cotton is often genetically modified to contain a toxin against moths, butterflies, beetles and other insects. This leaves it still prone to many other bugs and aphids, and it needs lots of pesticides. In addition, by inserting the toxin through GMO, pest immunity and super-bugs will rapidly increase. In contrast, organic plants are not genetically modified, and grown without the use of any chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Social Cost The developing world is home to 99% of all cotton farmers and produces 75% of the world's total cotton, so it bears the brunt of cotton's environmental and health concerns. Cotton growers in developing countries suffer great financial pressure from two sides: US cotton subsidies lower cotton prices, while production costs for Biotech (Bt) seeds and pesticides are rising. India's once prestigious cotton belt is now referred to as the "suicide belt" due to farmers unable to accept growing debts. Conventional Cotton Clothes During the conversion of cotton into conventional clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde-just to name a few. Processing of cotton into clothing results in large amounts of toxic waste water that carry away residues from chemical cleaning, dyeing, and finishing. This waste depletes the oxygen out of the water, killing aquatic animals and disrupting aquatic ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as "possible," "likely," "probable," or "known" human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin). (EPA) (Sources:  Wikipedia, OTA, EPA)

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