Are GMOs Hiding in Your Clothes?

by Chrystal Johnson on August 22, 2013

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gmos-clothesI 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?



About Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal, publisher of Happy Mothering, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former marketing manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life. She enjoys sharing those discoveries with anyone who's willing to listen.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Green Grandma
Twitter: TheGreenGrandma
August 22, 2013 at 8:45 am

It seems as if we’re nearly drowning in GMOs.

By the way, the best way to revive your microfiber cloths is to boil them for 10 minutes. Add 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water for extra cleaning. At least, that’s what I do with my Norwex cloths.
Green Grandma recently posted..A successful VBAC — The Birth Stories Series Continues


2 Chrystal Johnson August 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm

We are drowning in GMOs, aren’t we?

Thanks for the tip about microfiber! Most of mine are Norwex as well, so I’ll definitely give that a try! I hate to throw them out if it isn’t necessary.


3 Natasha Rodriguez August 22, 2013 at 10:32 am

Wow…this is horrible GMOs are everywhere!


4 Chrystal Johnson August 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

They are everywhere, and it will only get worse if we don’t stand together against them!


5 Erin August 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I’d also give a nod to viscose fibers from organic bamboo.
Erin recently posted..DIY Reading Nook


6 Jennifer E. August 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

I’m a huge fan of Norwex – thanks for the tips! Just stopping to say HI from the Social Fabric Community!


7 pinky sade August 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm

thanks for opening my eyes on this! i wasn’t fully aware about this.


8 CelloMom August 23, 2013 at 3:58 am

Thanks for pointing this out. Despite the problems, I think I’d still rather go with organic cotton. It may be contaminated with GMO cotton, but at least it hasn’t been sprayed -officially anyway – with the pesticides that GMO cotton tends to get. Remember, Monsanto started as a pesticide manufacturer, and still is.
CelloMom recently posted..Ten Ways to Calm Car Traffic


9 Chrystal Johnson August 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

Yep, good point!


10 Amy K August 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

This is just scary to think about! It is so hard to go 100% organic with foods, I hadn’t even really thought about it for fabrics and clothing! I will definitely be paying more attention to fabric labels now.


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