FAQ About Organic Cotton

Most people are familiar with organic food but what about textiles? Read on and find out the facts about organic cotton used in textiles such as garments and bedding


Are you new to the world of organics and changing to a green living lifestyle? read on and get answers to the most frequently asked questions about organic cotton.

What is organic cotton?
Organic cotton is cotton from non-genetically modified plants, that was grown without use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that can end up in the air, water, ground and food supply.

Does the USA produce organic cotton?
Today organic cotton is grown in over 22 countries. The United States is one of the top 10 leading countries in successful organic cotton production.

Are there specific regulations in the USA?
Yes, all cotton sold as organic in the USA must meet special requirements which are regulated by the National Organic Program from USDA (US Department of Agriculture), covering how the cotton is grown. All organic cotton producers are required to meet standards of Organic Food Production Act of 1990, enforced by The State Organic Program.

What is organic?
Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 (PDF) and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards.The USDA, AMS, National Organic Program (NOP) accredits private businesses, organizations, and state agencies to certify producers and handlers of agricultural products according to the NOP regulations.

What is certified organic?
Certified Organic products are grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Organics is not just chemical free by testing. It is about the way the product ingredients have been grown, prepared, processed and packaged. The whole system is linked to the soil, plants, people and the environment.

Certified organic means that a product had to pass a tough test to get that label. Standards to achieve certification are internationally recognized and are assured through annual audits of all certified operators by an independent third party auditor.

To carry the USDA seal, an organic product must contain 95 to 100% USDA organic ingredients and be verified by a third-party certifier.

What is GMO?
GMO is an acronym for genetically modified organism.

What is USDA?
USDA is an acronym for United States Department of Agriculture.

What is NOP?
NOP is an acronym for National Organic Program. This is the United States Department of Agriculture’s division, that regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. USDA's producers and handlers may choose any Accredited Certifying Agent. There are 53 domestic accredited certifying agents and 42 foreign accredited certifying agents, a total of 95 organically producing certifying agents. Oregon Tilth is the certifying agent for many of our products.

What is Oregon Tilth?
Oregon Tilth is a nonprofit research and education membership organization dedicated to biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture. Oregon Tilth provides organic certification services to organic growers, processors, and handlers internationally. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO) is an internationally recognized symbol of organic integrity. OTCO provides a system that combines strict production standards, on-site inspections, and legally binding contracts to protect the producers and buyers of organic products.

What are the concerns about conventional cotton or non-organic cotton?
Here are a few of the major concerns:

  • Conventional cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides!
  • These chemicals are taking a toll on our environment and human health as a whole. For example, every T-shirt made of conventional cotton requires 1/4 pound of harmful chemicals.
  • Non-organic cotton uses more than 16% of the world's pesticides!
  • Over 2.03 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to conventional cotton in 2000! That’s 142 pounds per acre, making cotton the fourth most heavily fertilized crop behind corn, winter wheat, and soybeans!
  • According to the USDA, in one year alone over 50 million pounds of pesticides were used on U.S. cotton fields. Pesticide and fertilizer use on cotton has been linked to ground and surface water contamination, and the pollution of drinking water. In California, cotton ranks third in the state for total number of pesticide-related illness.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as "possible," "likely," "probable," or "known" human carcinogens!
  • Consumers are exposed to chemicals through non-organic cotton garments and bedding products. These textiles can irritate the skin, and can cause neurodermatitis (a type of eczema or a persistent and chronic itchy skin condition also called "scratch dermatitis.") Chemical residues stay verifiable even in the ready-made garment.
  • Chemicals used in the cotton processing contaminate the environment and decrease it's biodiversity.

What are the top 7 pesticides used in on non-organic cotton that are likely carcinogenic?

These pesticides are: acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin.

What are the benefits of using organic cotton?
Some of the benefits include:

  • Certified organic cotton is allergy free.
  • No toxins or synthetic fertilizers are used. Organic cotton is produced without the use of harsh chemical bleaches or dyes of the pesticides and other toxic chemicals used in cotton.
  • We spend a third of our life sleeping. With our skin being our largest human organ, the use all natural organic cotton sheets, blankets and pillows will also reduce the risk of exposure to chemicals and carcinogens.
  • Organic cotton products have a noticeably soft texture.
  • Color-grown cotton is not dyed, so it doesn’t fade; the color will actually deepen when you wash it.
  • Today, colored cotton is grown "on the stem" in shades of brown, reddish brown, green and yellow.
  • Color-grown cotton reduces the use of synthetic dyes and is suitable for people with chemical sensitivities.
  • Protection and conservation of our environment and increasing of biodiversity.
  • Natural fertilizers, compost and soil amendments are used, and advances in natural pest control, such as ladybugs which destroy harmful insects, have helped make raising organic cotton a viable enterprise.
  • Organically grown crops yield soils with higher organic matter content, thicker topsoil depth, higher polysaccharides content, and lower modulus of rupture, therefore reducing considerably soil erosion.

Why are organic products more expensive?

Certified organic products such as organic bedding, cotton garments, sheets and pillows are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts for a number of reasons:

  • Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically altered seeds. It takes a few years to prepare soil to produce quality organic crops and get certified organic. This is were most of the extra cost comes from plus natural composting, natural pesticides and applying them is more expensive than chemical fertilizers.
  • Chemicals are a lot cheaper than human labor costs.
  • In order to be qualified as organic by the USDA's National Organic Program, these goods cannot be produced in a way that uses chemicals or even processed by equipment that has been used for any chemical processing. There is a large expense in either outsourcing processing to organic facilities or, for larger operations, building their own processing plants.
  • Supply and demand, less than 1% of the farm land in the USA, and less than 10% world wide, is organically managed so there is greater demand than there is supply.
  • Organic production is more laborious and use time intensive systems to meet certification standards.
  • Limitations on pesticide use, mean more hand-weeding. They also mean farmers run a higher risk of losing all or part of a year's crop.
  • Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic cotton reflects the true cost of growing.
  • The price of conventional products does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax dollars.
  • The benefits and value of organic production off-set the additional cost.

Can organic cotton production really make a difference in our environment?
Yes! Organic cotton production improves environmental biodiversity and promotes balance of ecosystems.

Find more information about organic cotton:
Organic Bedding & Bath for Green Living Lifestyle
A green living store offering high quality organic cotton bedding and bath products for the home. Affordable organic skin and body care products also featured for a chemical free lifestyle.
US Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA)