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The sustainability of organic cotton and GM cotton – part 2 of 2

The sustainability of organic cotton and GM cotton – part 2 of 2

In the first part of this article I have discussed GM cotton and organic cotton basics. In this second part I will discuss potentially unsustainable processing steps and water consumption in organic cotton, textile standards, pesticide use and yields of GM cotton vs organic cotton.

Dyes and Processing Chemicals

In further processing of the organic cotton, the classical chemical processing steps are used, for dyeing and finishing. Even if the cotton fibers were grown organically, they can still be unsustainably influenced during production by synthetic dyes and chemicals. These dyes are often involve heavy metals and volatile solvents.

For cotton, mostly reactive dyes are used, along with vat dyes (incl. indigo for blue denim), direct dyes and sulphur dyes. All these dyes are products of synthetic organic chemistry but that is not what is meant with the term “organic” in the context of organic agriculture.

gotsOrganicThe certificate label GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)[18] has been created to filter the use of the least contaminating dyes and chemicals, and environmentally most favorable, current state of technology, as promoted by industry experts. But still, they are products of the chemical industry; natural dyes are practically not available on the market.

What all such certifications and labels have in common is that they give good business to certifiers and consultants, and create the illusion of more ecologically friendly products. In reality in most of the cases the same products are used as in conventional dyeing and finishing.

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