by Jessica Lapidos on
While driving through the cotton capitol of the country, Lubbock, Texas, I chatted with the President of the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, Jimmy Wedel. He’s been growing organic cotton since 1993, and figured he could set some facts straight. I’d heard that organic cotton uses more water than pesticide-gobbling cotton, and some pretty awful things about the dangers of GMOs. But, as it turns out, I had a thing or 10 to learn about organic cotton.
Jimmy Wedel has been growing organic cotton in Muleshoe, TX since 1993, and i
1. Texas is Big on Organic
There are about 10 makers of organic cotton in the US. 95% is grown within 100-mile radius of Lubbock.
2. Organic is water-efficient
Growing organic cotton use the same or less water than a conventional cotton farm.
3. Organic Provides Jobs
If you consider the community effects, there are fewer jobs available in all the towns on the high plains because now you have a crop that is much less labor intensive. Conventional chemically enhanced farms require less and less local influence, and a lot of the towns across the high plains are dying because less and less people are needed to work the land. It’s a good thing on one side, but on the other hand, things like healthcare goes down and everyone migrates to the larger cities.
4. The Chemicals in Non-Organic Cotton are Pretty Terrible
There are two main (harmful) GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) that are used to easily grow NON-Organic / conventional cotton. Roundup Ready is sprayed all over the cotton to kill the weeds. BG (Bacterial Genesis) is an another gene that is inserted into a cotton plant, it makes management of a cotton crop very easy. With those two genes, you don’t have to worry about insects or the bollworm. But the land and weeds will grow resistant to the GMOs, so the farmers up the dosages and potency. However, you’ll get a different response from Montsanto [the makers of Roundup and BG].
5. Roundup Kills Organic
If roundup drifts onto my organic crop, it actually kills my crop, depending on how severe the drift, it might just damage it a little bit and it grows out and it’s okay.
6. Risk Costs More
Prices of organic cotton are higher due to risk. Unlike with pesticides, organic cotton is susceptible to insect invasion and inclement weather.
7. So Does Labor
It also costs more to grow because more people are involved in the process and must be paid fairly.
8. An Organic Farm is No Small Operation
Not all Organic Cotton farms are small. While Jimmy Wedel’s farm is larger than most at 4,000 acres, some are 7-9,000 acres.
9. Knitting Cotton in the US means Big Business
All knitting mills are big in the US, so it is difficult for a small business to get a small run of organic yarn. In the US everything is designed for big runs. We do sell cotton to some mom and pop organizations. Mills minimums are so high, however, that it’s difficult to get them into the marketplace. So that is a huge difficulty in the US.
10. Big Companies are Invested in US-grown Organic Cotton.
Big companies like Nike, Patagonia and Anvil speak directly with the cotton farms to inquire about the season’s crop. They buy as much as they can in the US first, before they turn overseas.