Our organic cotton bed linen comes from a fair trade and GOTS-certified organic cotton project in the Odisha region of India. The project, which comprises over 8000 farmer families, uses ecologically sensitive production methods and avoids the use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and GMOs. The project works in partnership with a factory in Kolkata that transforms the cotton into fabric and finished products. This factory offers its employees subsidised meals and housing, free transportation to and from work, medical care, interest-free loans and school fees for their children. In addition, 10% of its shares are held by the cotton farmers, so they can benefit from any profit it makes.
What is organic cotton?
A lot of people understand that the term organic means the avoidance of chemicals. However, it is much more than this. Organic production is fundamentally different from conventional forms of production because its approach is holistic. Instead of viewing the environment as simply a resource to be exploited, organic production views it as a living community. By working with the relationships within that community rather than against them, as conventional production does, it aims to ensure the long-term health of soils and ecosystems as well as cotton yields. In doing so, it seeks a win-win partnership with nature rather than a war. One of the key differences between organic and conventional methods is that while conventional cotton tends to be grown as a monocrop, organic cotton is grown alongside a range of other crops, some of which are food crops. This reduces the likelihood of pest outbreaks, thus decreasing the need for pesticides, and enables cotton to be grown as part of a diverse cropping system that provides an array of ecological benefits as well as food security.
What are the benefits?
The principle benefits of organic cotton are its ability to support biodiversity and soil health while providing farmers with food and financial security. Biodiversity is supported through the cultivation of a range of crops which benefit the ecosystem and the avoidance of chemical pesticides. Soil is enriched with nutrients through the cultivation of legumes (nitrogen fixing plants) and is protected from erosion through the presence of cover crops. Groundwater reserves are protected from over-use through the use of rainwater harvesting techniques and rivers are protected from pollution through the avoidance of chemical fertilisers. Farmers benefit from working in a healthy environment and gain a measure of food security from the growing of food crops alongside cotton. While short-term yields can be lower than with conventionally grown cotton, farmers benefit financially from the lower input costs due to the avoidance of chemicals. In the longer term, they also benefit from the security of livelihood provided by healthy soils.
For further information on organic cotton, see the Cottoned On website, a joint project by GOTS and the Soil Association.