Organic Cotton and Industry Fraud

Organic Cotton and Industry Fraud

Posted by Amanda Buckland on

April is Earth Month, which also means greenwashing goes up to Mach 10. So let’s talk about cotton. Cotton makes for great clothes because it’s durable and comfortable. Hypothetically, clothes made from organic cotton should be even better because it’s grown in harmony with the Earth - without pesticides & chemical fertilizers.

However, there is more organic cotton sold each year than actually grown. Some farmers have paid to falsely certify their cotton as “organic” to obtain higher profits.[1] But I don't blame them. Organic cotton farmers in central India, one of the single largest regions for organic cotton, make less money than their conventional cotton peers despite the higher prices we see at stores. Non-genetically modified seeds yield less cotton and tend to produce shorter fibers. The cotton prices are then squeezed on the basis that those fibers are ‘lower’ quality because they are shorter, but intermediaries along the supply chain mark-up prices to add premiums for “organic” labels. 

It is difficult for brands to have direct knowledge that their organic cotton is legit unless they control the farms. Fashion brands largely rely on certifications from NGOs and honesty of suppliers because it is very difficult to trace provenance of cotton to the farm-level. In 2016, it was estimated that 90% of Egyptian cotton on the market was not 100% Egyptian after revelations that Target severed its relationship with a supplier for misrepresenting fabric content in sheets & pillowcases.[2]

To combat this, some NGOs can now DNA test cotton for genetically modified organisms and geographic provenance. In 2021, the USDA began requiring that USDA organic labeled cotton sold in the US only come from farms and businesses it accredits itself or by very select foreign government equivalency approvals.[3] Countries are also rolling-out supply chain transparency rules for fashion brands, but this is for another article.

Will Amanda Lynnae use organic cotton? We’re still sourcing and researching so I can’t say for sure. It depends on whether the fabric blend and tangible feel are ideal for a particular style and Amanda Lynnae’s brand. My goal is to create clothes that you will wear for years, and that is the most sustainable type of clothing.

 

 

[1] Alden Wicker et. al. “That Organic Cotton T-Shirt May Not Be as Organic as You Think” www.nytimes.com 2022 Apr 12

[2] Oakes, Kelly. “How can we tell if the clothes in our wardrobes really are what they claim to be?” www.bbc.com 2023 Feb 6.

[3] https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/becoming-certified

 

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