Not Gardening, but Organic information

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Several weeks ago I succumbed to a display of organic cotton socks and bought 2 pair, despite the cost. I NEVER thought I'd pay that much for socks, ever... but now I have found the same socks online for less. I will buy more, esp. after reading the tale below.

Two things have happened.

The first is that I LOVE these socks. (2 Years ago I bought some other US made cotton socks and they were in the garbage after perhaps 10 wearings.) These organic cotton socks were wondefuul when I put them on, but the REAL test was after washing, where they got even better!

The second thing is that I have become better educated about the damage our cotton growing in the US does. It's long, but worth reading, and REALLY affects my thinking about cotton products.


Below you will find some enlightening information about Conventional Cotton growing practices prevalent in the US.. Once one realizes the enormity of the pesticides and chemicals used each year to grow and process cotton, it is easy to see why some people are so passionate about organic cotton products.

Cotton is the second most pesticide-laden crop in the world —after Coffee and before Tobacco.

The world’s Cotton crop represents approximately 3% of all cultivated land. This same crop utilizes 25% of the world's annual pesticide production, and 10% of the annual herbicide production.

Five of the top nine pesticides used on cotton in the U.S. (cyanide, dicofol, naled, propargite, and trifluralin) are KNOWN cancer-causing chemicals. All nine are classified by the U.S. EPA as Category I and II— the most dangerous chemicals.

It is estimated that it takes approximately 1/3 pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton to make just one T-shirt.

In the U.S. today, it takes approximately 8-10 years, and $100 million to develop a new pesticide for use on cotton. It takes approximately 5-6 years for weevils and other pests to develop an immunity to that same new pesticide.

Cottonseed, the by-product of ginning cotton fiber, accounts for 60% of the yield from each harvest. The cottonseed is where the most concentrated amounts of pesticide residues remain. Some of this cottonseed is made into oil; the oil you read on the ingredient labels of cookies, cakes, and snacks. Some of this cottonseed is sent to our dairies and cattle ranches. This chemical cottonseed ‘enriches’ the butterfat in dairy, and marbles the beef that we eat.

In California, it has become illegal to feed the leaves, stems, and short fibers of cotton known as ‘gin trash’ to livestock, because of the concentrated levels of pesticide residue. Instead, this gin trash is used to make furniture, mattresses, swabs, cottonballs and tampons. The average American woman will use 11,000 tampons during her lifetime.

During a tour of California’s San Joaquin valley, where over 18 million pounds of pesticides are sprayed annually onto one million acres of cotton, a group stopped at two enormous toxic settlement ponds, where contaminated water from the fields is drained and left to seep into the soil. This water contains huge concentrations of salt, selenium, boron and pesticide runoff, which has caused serious damage to soil and groundwater. "(This land) It will never be usable again" says Will Allen, of the Sustainable Cotton Project. "And I don’t mean in our lifetimes; I mean forever."

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, estimates are that less than 25% of a pesticide sprayed from a crop duster ever hits the crop. The remainder can drift for several miles, coming to rest on fruit and vegetable crops, and farm- workers. One year more than one hundred workers fell ill after a single incident of such drift onto an adjacent vineyard.

One of the commonly used pesticides on cotton throughout the world, endosulfan, leached from cottonfields into a creek in Lawrence County, Alabama during heavy rains in 1995. Within days 245,000 fish were killed over 16 mile stretch. 142,000 pounds of endosulfan were used in California in 1994.

The problems with clothing production don’t stop in the field. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing, numerous toxic chemicals are added at each stage— silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde— to name just a few.

Dublin, OH(Zone 5a)


You've hit a nerve. I am sitting in a heavily air-conditioned room. In short, I am freezing. A pair of organic cotton socks sounds really, really good right about now.

Where did you find the socks online?

Also, thanks for the information about cotton. I didn't know.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Yeah, I didn't know either. Makes a difference, doesn't it?

This message was edited Jul 9, 2004 4:47 PM

McKinney, TX(Zone 8a)

Hmm... That is really interesting. Two of my "organic" gardening supplies are cotton by-products. My favorite bulk soil and an amendment for my beds is Cotton Burr Compost since my compost pile cooks too slow. I have been buying bags and bags of it sold by two organic supply companies around here. It is almost as good as homemade compost in my garden, but now I am wondering what I might be adding to my beds. Also, I use cottonseed meal as an organic fertilizer. I will have to go check with the suppliers for sure and I will have to keep my eye out for organic cotton clothing. Thanks, Darius.

Gardena, CA

Thanks for the info. Every single piece of my clothing is 100% cotton. I may be mistaken but I believe we ship most of our cotton overseas where it is woven and made into clothing so even if the label says made in China, it still would not be safe. I must do some more research on this. Where were your sources from. I know that they spray a herbicide to kill the cotton plants which enables the seed pods to all open at the same time. This makes it easier to harvest. I used to enjoy watching the cotton picker outside of Bakersfield but will be a little leary now, or at least keep my eyes and ears open. Thanks for the info

Sweezel, Have you tried chicken manure in your compost pile. Someone in your neighborhood must have a few chickens. Make sure it is dried first and see if it doesn't heat the pile up like an oven.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

nadabigfarm, The information came from the web site I posted above and here's the link. I have read much of the same information elsewhere but don't have sites bookmarked.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

I too was concerned about using cotton by-products in my garden. Then I learned that the chemicals are killed along with pathogens when the product is composted according to government orgainc standards. So call the company on the bag and ask to speak to the person who knows how they compost it. It took a few calls for me to get the right company/person, but he was happy to talk about it, and it eased my mind. I did this also for the bags of manure. Also, some bags say "approved for organic gardening" on them now.
Since you are in Texas, it should be easy for you to get Back-to-Earth brand. Tell your supplier it is from Top Dog Distributors. (If you need their number I can find it) Also Aqua-Nu is a micro-nutrient that will speed up decompostion in fresh compost/manure.
Happy Organic Producing!

McKinney, TX(Zone 8a)


I have been using the Back-to-Earth brand but have also bought Back-to-Nature brand. Both brands' bags have statements that say "organic" on them. Thanks for the information. I did not find anything on Back-to-Earth's website, but I did find a statement with the spec sheets on Back-to-Nature's website:

A word about the chemicals used on cotton: The USDA and EPA now require that all chemicals used on cotton be biodegradable within a two week period. An additional safeguard with cotton grown on the Texas High Plains is that early freezes all but eliminate the need for chemical defoliation. Laboratory tests show that all potentially harmful elements and chemicals in Back To Nature Composts are well below the recommended EPA minimums and, in some cases, less than those that occur in nature. An additional safeguard is our voluntary compliance with the requirements of the United States Composting Council. Our products carry the USCC Seal of Testing Assurance.
Back To Nature composts are produced through aerobic, windrow composting for approximately three months at temperatures approaching 160° F, ensuring the elimination of insects, weed, chemicals and pathogens. They are then screened to the desired texture, packaged, and stored inside for curing to ensure the customer of a consistent, high quality product.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I'd be interested in knowing about ANY chemical that can be "killed" by composting.

Also, if you remember your high school and/or college chemistry, chemicals are "organic" even if deadly.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

Thanks for the link, have you checked out their soil mender products? It is all from the same company. My neighbor has been to visit their composting site, and it is LONG and HIGH, they use heavy machinery to turn it. I was glad to see someone doing something with all that cattle waste. If you have a large enough garden, you can have it deliverd direct to you by the pallet. Call 806/676-8207 and ask for Tara or Rhonda. I couldn't afford it this year, but may this fall or next.
It's true -- the scientific use of the word "organic" means any compound containing carbon, i.e. it is alive and can be broken down by other living orgainisms.
Yes, chemicals can be broken down, which is why you can use composted cattle manure that is approved for "organic gardening" by the USDA. Just think of all that junk given to cows in their feed supplements; even range fed cattle eat hay and grass with herbicides; and then they receive worming treatments and antibiotics and innoculations. It's a wonder I still eat beef now and then.
A chemical is like a pathogen, and the process of heating it up and adding water (h2o), causes it to break down to basic and safe substances, and some products (like BtE Top Soils) is "innocualted" with microbials, or small living organisms which cause th esoil to live and breathe and feed our gardens. Basically, everything is killed, then they add the good stuff back.
Just food for though ~;-}

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)

I found a thread under Garden Talk that Dave started a few years back about a compost tumbler. The ones who replied know all about commposting and temperatures, so check it out. BTW, the waste we put into our compost has chemicals in it, unless we are eating 100% organic.

Park Forest, IL(Zone 5b)

You're right tamarafaye. I try to make sure I only put organic scraps in my compost tumbler + my untreated grass clippings. My batch is almost ready. I was wondering if anyone has a worm composter. I'm interested in purchasing one and would love to hear some feedback from experienced owners. I was thinking that since I only put organic scraps in my compost tumbler, maybe I could put anything else in the worm composter. I wonder if the worms break down the bad stuff and make it okay, better, maybe good? I hope so, I really like to recycle. Does anyone have a rain barrel?

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10b)

I have heard that you can put strips of newpapers in a worm bin because the ink is vegetable but I would be wary of bleach in the paper myself.

Fritch, TX(Zone 6b)


Fredericksburg, VA(Zone 7b)

You can put black and white newspaper in your compost and in your worm bins. The amount of bleach in a home garden situation would have to be minuscule to non existent.

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