Demand for Organic Cotton increases drastically

During the last years, the demand for organic cotton textiles (e.g. Naturaline by Coop Switzerland, Switcher, H&M, C&A, Nike) increased drastically. On purpose the organic agriculture cultivation abandons the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Cotton seeds

The low-input organic cultivation with closed natural cycles enables an environmental friendly cultivation, reducing health risks, as well as the credit dependence for agrochemicals used by the smallholder farmers. Combining this with fair trade, organic cultivation contributes to sustainability of cotton productions, increases income and food security and fosters rural development. By 2009/2010, the world organic cotton production reached for the first time 241’000 tons of cotton fibres. More than 80 per cent of these global cotton productions derive from India, covering more than 200’000 smallholder farmers with a veritable income possibility for 1-2 hectare land sizes within hot and dry regions.

The Future of Organic Cotton Production threatened by Genetically Modified Bt-Cotton

Despite this, the future of organic cotton production is threatened by the fast extension of genetically modified Bt-cotton. Today, the Bt-cotton, including its built-in insect repellent, covers already more than 90% of total cultivation sites in India. At the same time, organic cultivation sites are drastically decreasing. Already in 2011/2012 more than 30% of total organic cotton cultivation sites have been reduced.

The following reasons are held responsible for that:

  1. The mixing with BT-cotton results in the divestiture from the organic labels and thus the consistent separation and quality assurance requires more costs for the whole production line;
  2. The seed propagation and breeding of cotton varieties concentrates exclusively on the genetically modified Bt-hybrid varieties under optimum cultivation conditions with high inputs of fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. At the same time, locally adapted cotton varieties for marginal cultivation areas are neglected

By now, the seed market for Bt-free cotton varieties stands still and organic producers are facing an urgent shortage of gene technic free seeds. Thus, their breeding development is shut short.