Is your clothing toxic?
Worldwide, conventionally-grown cotton production utilises approximately 25% of the world's total insecticides and 10% of the world's pesticides, although only grown on 3% of the world's crop-based agricultural land. Each year cotton producers around the world use nearly $2.6billion worth of pesticides. "Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop and epitomises the worst effects of chemically dependent agriculture" (Pesticide Action Network North America).
Cotton growers typically use many of the most hazardous pesticides, which are often broad spectrum organophosphates—pesticides originally developed as toxic nerve agents during WWII.
These chemicals can poison farm workers, drift into neighbouring communities, contaminate rivers and groundwater, degrade soils, and kill beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms—reducing biodiversity and interfering with ecosystems. The use of hazardous pesticides during cotton production can also be detected in clothing made from cotton.
Many farmers in developing countries growing conventional cotton fall ill or die due to a lack of knowledge, lack of adequate equipment and lack of government regulations surrounding pesticide use. A recent example of this in 2017, in the Indian cotton region Vidarbha, pesticide poisoning killed at least 46 people, mostly labourers, and affected a wider 800 people in the region.
As awareness grows for worker's rights in the fashion industry, we not only need to discuss fair and safe conditions for factory workers, but also for farmers who supply the fibres before they reach the factories. Choosing hemp (or organically-grown cotton) can reduce/eliminate the impacts of chemical-use on people, wildlife and the environment.
Hemp requires no pesticides, herbicides or chemicals to grow. Hemp plants are natural pest repellents that deter insects, nematodes and fungi, as well as kill/repel mites, fungi, bacteria and protozoans. Hemp is also a natural weed suppressant, naturally out-competing and shading-out the weeds in its environment. Hemp provides us the best opportunity to transition to chemical-free agriculture.