Cotton is one of the top four GMO crops produced in the world along with soy, canola and corn. It is estimated that 90 percent of global cotton production is now genetically modified.
What is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) and how does it impact the environment?
The simple explanation is - Genetically modified organisms (GMO) are plants, animals and microorganisms that have been genetically altered. They are made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of the organism in ways that are not possible under natural conditions or processes. Genetic engineering includes cell fusion, gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and /or changing the positions of genes.
India is the second largest producer of GM (Bt) cotton in the world behind China, where it is grown over an expanse of 12 million hectares.
But GM cotton is having tragic effects across India. The seeds are too costly, insects have developed resistance to the GM Bt cotton, secondary pests are becoming an increasing problem, there is increased pesticides usage and farmer suicides have increased. Most farmers have to borrow money to buy the expensive seeds, pesticides and fertilizers each season. Banks are reluctant to lend money and many farmers are forced to borrow from independent moneylenders who charge high interest rates. With lower cotton yields, crop failure and no ability to grow other crops in the toxic soils farmers are unable to repay their loans and are pushed deeper into a cycle of debt and poverty where families and children are enslaved in bonded labour. The number of farmer suicides in India in the past 15 years totals a staggering quarter of a million.
In 2012, the Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture concluded “after the euphoria of a few initial years, Bt cotton cultivation has only added to the miseries of the small and marginal farmers”. The committee has called for a complete ban on open field trials of GM crops in India.
The Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) has paved the way for textile production that prohibits all genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and their derivatives.
At Bhumi all of our organic cotton is grown and produced as nature intended. At the beginning of the organic cotton journey, non-GMO seeds are used to grow our cotton.
We only use and will only ever use GOTS certified fairtrade organic cotton for there to be a positive impact from “seed to shelf” on humanity and the environment. Being strict in our certification ensures that along the whole supply chain there are no GM seeds, no harmful chemicals, insecticides and pesticides, no toxic dyes, bleaches or finishes, no child labour, fair wages and safe working conditions.
Overall, this results in having the lowest environmental impact, a deep sense of social justice with fair trade practices and also the purest and softest cotton, that is resilient and gentle on our skin.
About the Author: Vinita is the Founder of Bhumi Organic Cotton and passionate about Earth Life Balance.