I have had an internal debate going on for a while between synthetic and natural fibers. I love my microfiber cleaning cloths because they get the job done – even with just water.
However, after a few years, it’s hard to get them clean and they aren’t biodegradable (a fact I wasn’t aware of when I bought them). I have been trying to decide what to replace them with when they bite the dust.
I was leaning towards natural fibers and one day it dawned on me – cotton really isn’t a natural fiber anymore. When did that happen?
Well, GMO cotton was first approved for use in the US in 1996. As of 2011, 75% of the cotton being grown in the US is GMO.
However, GMO cotton is not just grown in the US. It’s also grown on 25 million hectares around the world – mostly the US, India, China and Pakistan, but also in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burma, Columbia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico, Paraguay, South and Africa Sudan.
While GMO cotton is relatively easy to avoid in food – you’ll mostly find is listed as cottonseed oil – it’s not so easy to avoid in clothes and other household fibers.
Knowing the countries that grow GMO cotton, it would seem easy to avoid GMO cotton by simply refusing to buy fabrics grown or made in those countries that aren’t certified organic.
Unfortunately, a recent scandal uncovered the fact that India – who grew 61% of all organic cotton last year – has been putting cotton out into the market that is tainted with GMOs. Tests showed 30% of the certified organic cotton fabrics grown in India at big-name retailer H&M were tainted with GMOs. It remains to be shown how many retailers this fact is affecting.
If you’re wondering if GMO cotton is actually causing harm since we’re not really ingesting much of it – it is. Workers who are exposed to Bt cotton (GMO cotton) have a record of developing allergies, some so severe that they’re hospitalized.
In addition, four villages that allowed their sheep to graze on GMO cotton experienced morbid effects. 25% of their sheep died within a week of consuming the GMO cotton.
So, the short lesson is to know where your fabrics are coming from if they’re made from cotton. Until we know more about the effects of GMO cotton, avoid all cotton grown in the above-mentioned countries.
Another natural fiber you can look at if you want to avoid cotton is hemp. It’s stronger, more environmentally friendly and less expensive to grow.
From now on, I’m going to be more conscious about purchasing clothes and other fabrics made from GMO cotton. Will you?