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The Environmental Footprints of Organic Cotton: From Field Through the Supply Chain

Apr 04, 2019

Cotton is one of the most widely grown crops in the world, and conventional cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops with serious consequences for both the environment and farm workers. Furthermore, post-harvest treatment of cotton and fabric production practices can further contribute to environmental degradation. Organic cotton and textile production likely provides a sustainable alternative however, no assessment has ever been conducted for organic cotton past the stage of cotton ginning and baling of raw cotton, through the full supply chain. This report will fill this knowledge gap by creating an up-to-date report to compare costs and externalities (biological, environmental, and social) of organic and conventional US cotton and textile production. This report will rely on scientific data and case study comparisons to educate both industry and consumers of the benefits of organic cotton and textiles, covering everything from soil preparation, to fabrication aids, to marketing.  The report will be disseminated widely to the textile industry and consumer groups.

This report will include the most recent published literature comparing costs and externalities of organic and conventional cotton production, including the following factors:

  • Soil preparation (including non-target effects of chemicals)
  • Seed source (including effects of transgenic crops)
  • Fertilization regime (including non-target effects of chemicals)
  • Pest management (including weed, insect and disease control; effects on non-target species)
  • Harvesting aids (defoliation)
  • Fabrication aids (warping, whitening, finishing, dyeing, and printing materials)
  • Marketing (know-your-farmer vs. industrial system)
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