Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop[Source:Wikipedia.org]. The pesticides used by conventional cotton growers have long term impacts in our environment. These pesticides washed out into the soil contaminates rivers and lakes. Most of the pesticides are handled by farmers in developing countries without adequate protection resulting in myriad of health issues. In India, one of the largest manufacturer of cotton accounts for 5% of the land under crops and 54% of annual pesticide use. Every year around 77 million people are affected by the adverse effects of pesticides used in cotton. Cotton is one of the top 4 GMO crops cultivated in the world and it is about time we realise the adverse effects of this.
Families affected by adverse effects of conventional cotton growing methods face severe economic burden due to rising medical costs and their inability to continue working. This has resulted in farmer suicides in many countries. The excessive use of pesticides reduce the water retention capacity of soil resulting in more water consumption.
Pesticides used in the production of conventional cotton include orthophosphates such as phorate and methamidophos, endosulfan and aldicarb. Some of the chemicals used are highly persistent and hence it approximately take 2-3 years to switch over from conventional cotton method to growing organic cotton. Sustainable cotton project is helping the communities and farmers to make the transition from chemically dependent crops to more sustainable growing methods.
Currently, organic cotton is being grown in many countries successfully and we are just looking forward to the day where cultivation of organic cotton becomes the norm.
The comparison link below clearly explains the difference between conventional cotton and organic cotton.