Thursday, 18 July 2013

What Are You Wearing Today?

I have been reading an 'Organic NZ' magazine.
There was a very interesting article about cotton.
I was horrified when I read about the conditions
under which the majority of the worlds cotton is produced.
Cotton... That I take for granted in the clothes I wear...
My towels... Linen on my bed.

1/3rd of the textile fibres used round the world come from cotton.
The 100 million households involved in its cultivation
experience a precarious livelihood... Economic insecurity...
Hazards to their health... And it is environmentally destructive.

This annual shrub, native to India, Africa and the Americas,
first began cultivation in the Indus Valley 7-8000 years ago.
In the late 17th and the 18th centuries British colonial mercantilists
forced Indian farmers to grow cheap cotton to feed the emerging
British textile industry. They imposed laws hampering the local Indian
industry forcing Indian markets to buy British textiles.
The Indian cotton supply wasn't enough for Britain so they turned to
slave plantations in the USA and the Caribbean.
Today cotton remains a major export crop for India, the USA and
parts of Africa but China is now the biggest producer.
Cotton growing takes up 2.6% of global cropland and uses 16%
of the global pesticide used each year. In India, the 2nd biggest
producer, 56% of all pesticides are for cotton crops, 40% of
which are classed as hazardous by the World Health Org.
Pesticides applied during cotton production can be detected in
cotton clothing. Significant and cumulative neurobehavioural
impairment in Egyptian cotton growers is a result of
exposure to these very toxic pesticides.

99% of the world's cotton comes from the developing world
where the farmers tend to have low levels of safety awareness,
high levels of illiteracy, lack protective gear and live in chronic poverty
all of which exacerbates the damage caused by these chemicals.
Child labour is rife despite their greater vulnerability to toxins.
In India and Uzbekistan children are directly involved in applying
pesticides to the crops. In Pakistan, Egypt and Central Asia
child labourers work in the cotton fields during and following
the spraying season.

Pesticides used in cotton production contaminate rivers in
USA, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Australia, Greece and West Africa.
In Brazil, the worlds 4th largest consumer of agrochemicals
rainwater was found to contain 19 different
chemicals, 12 of which were used in cotton growing in that area.
Cotton is a thirsty crop. In Uzbekistan, the worlds 6th biggest
cotton producer and 3rd biggest exporter, the Aral Sea, once
the worlds 4th largest inland body of water is now reduced to 15%
of its former volume, the 24 native fish species have all disappeared
and most of the country's wetland ecosystems have dried out.
The result - tens of thousands of people have become environmental
refugees. Among the people of Karakalpakstan unemployment is 70%
poverty related  health problems are rampant, pesticide laden dust
causes 50% of all deaths from respiratory problems.
One baby in every 23 is born with an abnormality, genetic mutation
amongst Karakalpaks is 3.5 more than the normal rate.
This madness in Uzbekistan is maintained by brutal
repression of any dissident by the Communist-era boss
turned post-Communist dictator...Islam Karimov.
He uses systematic torture,  judicial interference and
murder. Farmers must sell their crops to the state monopoly,
they are often cheated of their meagre earnings.
They are threatened with eviction, beaten and killed to force
them to meet production quotas, school lessons are suspended
during harvest with children required to work in the fields.
All this earns the Karimov regime more than US$1billion a year
in hard currency. The same thing happens in Turkmenistan where
more than one million children under age 12 work in the cotton
fields under harsh conditions.

Since 1996 when it was commercialised,
Bt cotton is a major USA GE crop, engineered to contain
its own insecticide and in theory reduce pesticide use.
By 2008  86% of USA cotton was GE,
(USDA Report) and has been heralded as successful.
A Biotech Infonet report suggests it does reduce pesticide
use in some cases by 5%!  Another study reports that Bt cotton grown in
China in 2006  used the same amount of pesticide as before its
introduction in 1999. The higher yields promised from Bt cotton have not
been realised, the seed costs more and requires more irrigation.
The result...High levels of debt for farmers in developing
countries and high levels of farmer suicides...
Large scale animal deaths as they graze on post-harvest cotton stubble.
Chemical cotton production is exploitive, destructive of the environment
and of poorer communities. Short term profit drives production with little
regard for the long term impact on waterways, soil health or the
wellbeing of producers. A shift to GE cotton
is driven by the desire of seed companies to monopolise
 the market and farmers to shave costs...
Rather than the need to restore a better relationship with the environment.
Fairtrade is focusing on many of these issues...
Watch the films on this link...
Including the concern over the US subsidy paid to US cotton farmers
which artificially depresses cotton prices to the commodity markets.
Monsanto has launched a campaign to reduce child labour in India.
Environmental Justice Foundation  is raising awareness.
Water Footprint Network is working with global water awareness

So! What are  you wearing today?
What are you sleeping in?
Have you stopped to think about it.
I hadn't.
I am very aware of the slave and forced labour in China
that makes so many of our clothes but where the fabric
comes from is something new for me to think about 
and become more aware about.

What is the answer... My next post will make a suggestion...
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