Science - April 20, 2006

Cotton disastrous for soil

Five million hectares of agricultural land has already been lost as a result of cotton growing, according to a report written by the Wageningen Science Shop for Goede Waar & Co. Thanks to the research, the consumer organisation got financing for its campaign ‘Katoen moet je zo doen’.

Eco-friendly clothing is going to be hip, Goede Waar & Co hopes. The Rector of Wageningen University, Martin Kropff, made his contribution by presenting the Science Shop’s research report on sustainable cotton growing during the Fashion United Event in Amsterdam on 10 April.

The Wageningen researchers worked out exactly how environmentally polluting cotton growing is. A quarter of the cotton that is used to make our clothes comes from China. Other important cotton producers are the US, India and Pakistan. Cotton cultivation requires a lot of water. Irrigation leads to salination of the soil, the soil unusable in the long term rendering for agriculture.

A large amount of chemicals are also used in cotton growing: 11 percent of all pesticides in the world and 25 percent of all insecticides are used by the sector. There is also a high level of poisoning among agricultural workers in cotton because many work without protective clothing or equipment, often with old kinds of chemicals. Eighty percent of cotton is produced using conventional methods, twenty percent uses of integrated pest management and only 0.04 percent is organically grown, according to the Science Shop report.

There are already a number of clothing brands that use eco-friendly cotton, but they are not yet well known. During the evening of Friday 12 May, the Goede Waar & Co campaign team will be in the centre of Wageningen to promote their activities and will be handing out free packets of cotton seed. / JT

Re:act