The definition of organic agriculture (including cotton) is: “Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. National organic standards require that organic growers and handlers be certified by third-party state or private agencies or other organizations that are accredited by USDA.”
Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.
What is a fertilizer, and isn't it a pesticide? No, fertilizers are not the same as pesticides. "The USDA definition of pesticides is quite broad, but it does have some exclusions: Fertilizers, nutrients, and other substances used to promote plant survival and health are not considered plant growth regulators and thus are not pesticides."
A fertilizer is any substance that is added to soil in order to increase its productivity. Fertilizers can be of biological origin (eg composts), or they can be synthetic (artificial fertilizer). Fertilizers are substance that improves the ability of soil to produce crops, they are considered plant nutrients, substances that feed the plants.
Corrected facts on the growing of conventional cotton and it's comparison to organic cotton from previous post:
In total, all nine states applied 55,738 pounds of pesticides divided by the total 12,425 planted acreage equals 4.4859 pounds applied per acre of cotton. 4.4859 pounds equals 71.774 ounces applied per acre. For the documented year, the yield per acre was 831 pounds of cotton fiber per acre. 71.774 ounces divided into 831 pounds of cotton fiber per acre equals:0.08637 ounces of pesticides are used to grow a pound of cotton fiber in the US.
*Utilizing fertilizer data provided by the USDA, there are 2.7731 ounces of fertilizers used to grow a pound of cotton fiber. (144.03 pounds per acre x 16=2,304.48 ounces divided by the 831 pounds per acre yield =2.7731
This calculates to 2.8595 ounces of pesticides and fertilizers to grow a pound of cotton, far less than the 5 ounces per pound, that was the outdated previously reported statistic.
*Please note: It is not known what fraction of the fertilizers as reported by USDA are organic-approved versus organic-disallowed. Thus it is impossible to sum pesticides and fertilizers and get total synthetic chemicals applied. It is reasonable to expect that most of the USDA reported pesticides currently applied to cotton are synthetic chemicals.There are NOP approved fertilizers used on conventional cotton production. It is a known fact that NOT all fertilizers are synthetic chemicals since dairy, chicken and feedlot manure is commonly applied to cotton. Cotton fields respond well to manure and cotton tolerates the salts prevalent in cattle manure.
"Organic Cotton Fact Check" in perspective;
Most organizations in the organic cotton business, take a single purchase, seasonal or annual purchases to document the amount of savings in purchasing organic cotton vs. conventional cotton, a practice I strongly encourage as long as you are using correct facts.
As an example an organization that is using the outdated information is reporting for every 100,000 pounds of organic cotton purchased, they are saving 31,250 pounds of pesticides and fertilizers from the planet.
Using the above current USDA information that same 100,000 pounds of organic cotton purchased would be saving 8,637 ounces or 540 pounds of pesticides and 17, 312 pounds of fertilizers. A total of 17,852 pounds per 100,00 pounds of cotton fiber versus the previously reported 31,250, a difference of 13,398 pounds or 43% less than previously reported. Since we cannot distinguish synthetic from organic fertilizers in the USDA data, it is noted that this calculation is on the high end of the scale.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Environmental Marketing Guides.
“Your label claims CANNOT be deceptive.” “It is deceptive to misrepresent, directly or by implication, that a product, package or service offers a general environmental benefit.”
According to PAN-UK; "The figure of 1/3 pounds pesticides per pound of cotton is completely wrong. That would be the end of the world if so much pesticide was used in the world."
You should distinguish between pesticides and fertilizers in your marketing materials. Fertilizers make up 97% of the inputs to cotton, while pesticides are at 3%. Noted environmental and health impacts of fertilizers include but are not limited to: runoff into streams; possible contamination of water as well as eutrophication, and penetration to underground water tables again with possible contamination.
Therefore the previous usage of 1/3 pounds of pesticides in a t-shirt and or pound of cotton would be incorrect. The information noted by the resources in this four part series is considered correct as of this date.
.The futon shop uses over 85,000 lbs of organic cotton per year saving mother earth from 1000,s of lbs of harmful pesticides from polluting her earth and water systems! You can help buy organic.
For more information on organic cotton visit