To make plants resistant against fungi and other diseases, many cotton farmers have switched over to genetically modified seeds ( GMOs). Today 75% of all cotton is genetically modified. The biggest producers? You find them in India, China, Pakistan and the US GMO cotton is resistant against different insects, plagues and lack of water, because of which farmers expect a higher return. But is this also reality?

What exactly is GMO cotton?

With genetically modified cotton the seeds are adjusted to have certain features.

We discern 2 important kinds of GMOS.

  • The first variant of ‘Bt-cotton’ is modified so that it will kill all insects.
  • The cotton plant protects against the greedy mouths of insects. The substance that produces Bt is toxic for moths, cotton bolworms and beetles so that they can no longer harm the plant.
  • A second variant is made resistant against herbicides among which Roundup of Monsanto. This herbicide is used on cotton field to kill all weed and surrounding plants with the exception of the genetifcally modified plant. Because of this GMO variant, manufacturers are hoping to enlarge the return, to reduce competition with other plants for food production or water. The GMO cotton plant will be the only one on this land that will survive herbicides.

GMO cotton: the advantages and disadvantages

Some genetically modified cotton plants are automatically resistant against certain diseases and insects, so that farmers should use less fertilizers and pesticides. This is an advantage for their wallet, but also for the environment. This way, Bt cotton ensures less use of chemicals, only positive, right? But GMO cotton has sadly enough also a very dark side.

No bigger harvest

The expected higher return is not true. Research in the GMO cotton plants in India between 2005-2012 showed that the harvest of Bt-katoen had just gone up by 2%. This rise was also the consequence of improved agricultural techniques. How can it be that the harvest does not improve with GMO plants? Here is the answer: pests and insects adapt easily to the new GMO plant.

Nature is extremely smart and adapts easily in a new way. Because of this new plagues will arise against which Bt-cotton is not resistant.

Is GMO cotton harmful for our health?

Different studies show that cotton GMO plants are in themselves not bad for our health, nor for farmers. The problem is that there are still toxic chemicals used that are harmful for our health. GMOS support an unsustainable cotton production and resist the production of organic cotton.

Farmers under pressure of big internationals

De boeren zijn afhankelijk van de bedrijven waarvan ze de GGO zaden kopen. Eens de boer de GGO zaadjes planten, mogen ze in tegenstelling tot bij gewone agricultuut geen zaden van andere katoenplanten bewaren voor het volgend jaar. Ze worden dus verplicht om elk jaar opnieuw duur zaad aan te kopen, met bijhorende chemicaliën van het zusterbedrijf. Bij een slecht jaar of een slechte oogsten zullen de buren dus niet de mogelijkheid hebben om nieuwe zaden aan te kopen.

Van alle gecommercialiseerde zaden wereldwijd wordt meer dan de helft gecontroleerd door slechts drie firma’s: Monsanto, DuPont en Syngenta. Deze grote multinationals dwingen kleine boeren om afhankelijk te zijn van dure zaden en bijhorende sproeistoffen. Wie niet meekan of meewil, valt uit de boot, moet zijn land verkopen of wordt slaaf van het systeem. Dit heeft grote impact op het geluksgevoel bij de katoenboeren, met tal van zelfmoorden als gevolg in verschillende landen.

How to switch to organic cotton?

De switch van GGO katoen naar biolologisch katoen is nodig! Bij een biologische katoenteelt zijn kunstmatige chemicaliën verboden, is de grond gezonder en de biodiversiteit rijker. Veel voordelen dus voor onze gezondheid en ook de natuur! Wist je dat in een biodiversiteitsrijke omgeving de insecten, schimmels die de katoenplant zouden aanvallen automatisch onder controle gehouden door hun natuurlijke vijanden? De biodiversiteit beschermt dus de katoenplanten. Er zijn dus geen extra schadelijke chemicaliën nodig om de plagen te verdrijven. De natuur doet zelf het werk. Een veel goedkopere en milieuvriendelijke oplossing dan GGO’s!

Why are there so little organic cotton farmers?

Besides the big pressure of multinationals, the switch to sustainable cotton production takes time. As farmers want to switch to organic cotton, they face many challenges. They are often sued by GMO manufacturers to find land and are accused of fraud.

Moreover growing organic cotton on exhausted land is impossible because the ground has not enough nutrients. Often there is more money needed for investments. Often extra money is needed for investments and to span the coming years to have fallow land. Unfortunately, this money is not available.

How can you attribute?

Sustainable suppliers can play a big role in the switch to organic cotton. Because of a good collaboration and a fair price farmers can switch to organic cotton. Because of a good collaboration and a fair price farmers can help to support the switch to organic cotton.

Because of the selection of sustainable brands and organic cotton, you can help the farmers to switch to ecological cotton crops.