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What is organic cotton?

September 03, 2021 4 min read

What is organic cotton?
This article is an automatic translation from our Original French blog. This text may contain translation errors. Thank you for your understanding.

The planet we live on is increasingly threatened by human activities: large-scale production, intensive farming, unbridled consumption, etc., thus endangering our natural habitat. In order to remedy this situation, an increasing number of farmers and companies are choosing to turn to so-called organic farming, thereby reducing the use of pesticides in order to avoid polluting the soil. This trend is also spreading to sportswear designers, who are now making sure they use environmentally friendly materials, such as organic cotton.


Cotton is one of the world's most important crops, accounting for almost 40% of the world's textile production, 25% of the world's pesticide use, and being the 3rd most water-intensive crop after wheat and rice. Considered to be extremely polluting, alternatives have started to be developed to find an environmentally friendly way of farming cotton, without using chemicals and without polluting the soil. This is the cultivation of organic cotton.

Organic cotton is cotton that is grown in a way that respects the natural environment, and more generally the environment, by ensuring that no pesticides, chemical fertilisers or GMOs are used in the cultivation of the cotton, from the beginning of the planting of the seed to the harvesting of the cotton, as well as during the weaving and dyeing process, as no chemicals are used. Instead, natural compost is used during the planting process, and crop rotation and water conservation techniques are used. The cultivation of organic cotton also meets the conditions and certifications of the standards defined by organic agriculture.

Organic cotton is grown in many countries, 22 to be exact, including the United States, China, India, Turkey, and Syria.

Several labels have been created to guarantee that the cotton used comes from organic farming, such as the GOTS label (Global Organic Textile Standard) created in 2002, considered to be the leading label in this field, as it certifies the entire supply chain, as well as the various ecological and social aspects of manufacturing. There is also the Okeo Tex label, created in 1992 and used more generally for all textiles that have been produced in conditions that respect the environment and workers.



Choosing to wear clothes made from organic cotton has many advantages, from various points of view.

First of all, from the point of view of the crop itself. Conventional cotton cultivation has been singled out by the WHO (World Health Organisation) as one of the most harmful forms of agriculture in terms of soil and water pollution, and also requires a very large quantity of pesticides in relation to the surface area of the land cultivated. This crop also emits a lot of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. The cultivation of organic cotton is much more environmentally friendly, as it does not use pesticides. In addition, it is part of fair trade, ensuring that workers have access to protected working conditions and a decent wage. In addition, the non-use of chemicals in this crop means that workers do not suffer from health problems, unlike those working on conventional cotton plantations, for which there have been many reports of deaths.

But also from an environmental point of view. This type of agriculture requires much less water than that used for normal cotton. For example, 2,500 litres of water are used for a conventional cotton top, much less for an organic cotton top, which requires only about 100 litres. The soils used for this type of cultivation have not undergone chemical fertilizers and retain water better, and there has been no use of pesticides that need to be diluted with water. Furthermore, in organic farming, the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers is not required, thus allowing the soil and water to remain unpolluted by such products, thus respecting the environment.

And finally from the consumer's point of view. Wearing clothes made of organic cotton means wearing clothes whose materials have not been subjected to heavy chemical processes. In fact, during the manufacture of a garment, it is possible that the latter may have come into contact with heavy metals, notably those used to chemically dye the garments, such as lead; dimethylfumarate, a product used to preserve textiles and considered to be allergenic; or perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals, used to make the garments waterproof and which may eventually contribute to the development of cancers or kidney diseases. When consumers choose to wear clothes made from organic cotton, they are assured of a product that is allergy-free and free from chemical exposure. It is also a natural material, perfect for letting the skin breathe. Finally, the consumer chooses to opt for cotton from organic and fair trade agriculture, including an awareness of its environmental impact, which is becoming an increasingly important criterion for many consumers today.

The cultivation of organic cotton is tending to develop more today, but is still marginal compared to the production of conventional cotton (about 2 million tonnes for organic cotton, compared to over 16 billion tonnes for conventional cotton). Opting for organic cotton textiles means participating in the development of this environmentally friendly crop.