Organic Cotton vs. Conventional Cotton

Organic Cotton vs. Conventional Cotton

Organic: Why is it a good choice?

  • Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment.
  • Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.
  • Third­-party certification organizations verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production.
  • Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming.
  • All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.

Using this table, you can make an informed choice based on your needs and your family's needs


Seed preparation:

Natural, untreated GMO free seeds.

Typically treated with fungicides or insecticides. Possible GMOs.

Soil preparation:

Healthy soil through crop rotation. Retains moisture in soil from increased organic matter.

Synthetic fertilizers, loss of soil due to mono- crop culture, intensive irrigation.

Weed control:

Healthy soil creates natural balance. Beneficial insects and trap crops used.

Aerial spraying of insecticides and pesticides. Nine of the most commonly used pesticides are known cancer-causing agents.


Natural defoliation from freezing temperatures or through the use of water management.

Defoliation induced with toxic chemicals.


Warp fibers stabilized using double-plying or nontoxic cornstarch.

Warp fibers stabilized using toxic waxes.


Safe peroxide is used.

Chlorine bleaching creates toxic by-products, which are released into the environment.


Soft scour in warm water with soda ash, for a pH of 7.5 to 8.

Hot water, synthetic surfactants, additional chemicals (sometimes formaldehyde).


Low-impact fiber-reactive or natural dyes with low metal and sulfur content.

High temperature containing heavy metals and sulfur.


Low-impact, water-based inks and/or pigments with no heavy metals.

Pigments may be petroleum-based and contain heavy metals. Run-off spills into waterways, polluting streams.

Fair trade:

Social criteria in place to ensure safe, healthy, non-abusive, nondiscriminatory environment with living wages.

No social screening. Possible child or forced labor used. Facilities may be unsafe and unhealthy.


A positive story can be told to differentiate you from your competitors.

None. As awareness of organic advantage expands, increased potential for the negative image.


Initial cost more expensive. Long-term advantages: priceless.

Initially cheaper. Long-term impact on the environment: devastating.

Source: Organic Trade Association & Organic Cotton Plus


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