Cotton and Pesticides
Cotton has had a long and successful history. Extending across nations and cultures, lending itself to many different uses in many different eras, cotton remains the fiber of choice even today. And for good reason. Cotton is the most universally comfortable, versatile and durable of all the fibers, natural or synthetic. However, while its value as a fiber has been long established, cotton is being produced at a scary expense. In this day of competitive, high yield farming, farmers caught in the chemical rut are consistently putting our health and the environment at risk.
In the United States, approximately 600,000 tons of pesticides and chemical fertilizers are applied to cotton fields each season. The commercial growing field—cotton's manmade womb—is a sterile environment in which insect, plant, and microbial diversity is selectively eradicated for the sake of growing one plant exclusively. Farm workers, who have the highest rate of chemical-related illness of any occupational group in the U.S.A., suffer from approximately 300,000 pesticide-related illnesses each year; and yet, they continue to rely on gross amounts of chemicals for their farming.
The reason is simple: money. In the competitive world marketplace, there is a continual pressure to produce more for less money. By pumping the plants full of heavy doses of synthetic fertilizers—and simultaneously destroying competing species—it is reasoned that one can create maximum yields. Such is the state of commercial farming today. Because of the superficial success these methods have produced, bank financing is readily available to farmers using intense chemical techniques. Conversely, organic farming is looked upon skeptically by money lending institutions.
The negative results of commercial farming are overwhelming. While cheaper than more labor-intensive methods, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, growth regulators and defoliants are harmful to humans and wildlife, and wipe out all natural biological systems available to the farmer. The chemicals used on cotton are among the most toxic substances used in farming, and the runoff from irrigation is consistently polluting our drinking water. This is unacceptable. Each year 14 million people routinely drink water contaminated with carcinogenic herbicides—much of it from cotton farming. Over 10,000 people die each year from cancer related to pesticides. Something must be done.