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Organic Cotton Concept for Bangladesh


Becoming cent percent organic cotton producing country, Bangladesh could include an important landmark in her own Textile and Clothing sector’s strengths for global competitiveness. However, no product could be made without affecting environment. Thereby, reducing these effects to a minimum level is the principal aim of Organic Cotton (OC) cultivation. The concept of organic products is as old as 1900’s, but since the last decade OC got priority. It is because of consumers’ desire for the ethical products. The most important way to reduce substantial impact on environment is ‘pollution prevention’ that OC concept follows.

Key words: Organic cotton; Textile and Clothing sector; Environment pollution; Adoption and Diffusion Process; Push and Pull Strategy; Hierarchy of pollution controls.


Environment issues; like air, sound, land and water pollution, global worming; have got utmost importance globally. Since long, developed and industrial countries have been trying every possible way to control and reduce environment pollution.  For last few years, developing and least developing countries have showed their interest on environment issues.  Control on environment pollution means control over health hazards, diseases of human beings, animals, and plants. Finally, safe planet for it’s creatures.

Textile and Clothing (T&C) sector is one of the biggest environment polluters in industrial sectors. The textile industry is largely based upon the agriculture system. We get cotton through agriculture system. Cotton is the most important and extensively used raw material in T&C industry. It (cotton) provides almost 50% of the global fiber requirement. Cotton fibers are processed in textile industry and eventually we get clothing that we wear.

When cotton is cultivated in traditional/conventional method, it pollutes environment (soil, water and air pollution, soil erosion) and does harm to the stakeholders (health risk for farmers, producer and consumers, killing animals and plants). Because, fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides are used in conventional cotton cultivation extensively.  According to statistics, the conventional cotton crops occupies 3% of the world cultivated areas but it represents 25% of pesticides and 10% of insecticides brought in the world. That is why; cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop (after corn and soybean cultivation) in the world and one of the biggest environment polluters in agriculture sector. Growing cotton accounts for 2.6% of the world’s yearly water usage.

It is found that a basic T-shirt made of conventional cotton requires 1/4 pound of harmful chemicals (pesticide, insecticide, processing chemicals, dyes, auxiliaries) while a jeans contains 1/3-pound harmful chemicals. That means if someone simply wears a jeans and a T-shirt, s/he wears more than half a pound of chemicals. As per Seasalt (Organic clothing company), as many as 8000 chemicals can be used in the process of turning cotton into a T-shirt. To grow the fiber for a man’s dress shirt requires 414.5 gallons (1570litre) of water.

Conventional cotton cultivation is taking toll on our environment and human health as a whole. But there is one best method to cultivate cotton, which dramatically delivers best quality cotton while respecting the environment and human beings- organic agriculture (organic cotton cultivation). OC is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. OC is also well known as Bio-Cotton. Consumers to buy textile products made of OC by considering few points like ethical & moral issues (i.e. environment protection, sustainable development) and consciousness (health hazards).

Disasters brought by Traditional Cotton Cultivation:

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 20,000 deaths occur in developing countries each from the poisoning by agriculture pesticides used on crops, of which many, due to their relative toxicity, can be attributed to cotton. Information disclosed by Soil Association, in Benin in West Africa, 24 people died due to poisoning from cotton pesticides in 2000. According to Organic Trade Association (OTA), in 1999, a work crew (a group of people) re-entered a cotton field about 5 hours after it was treated with tribufos and sodium chlorate (re-entry should have been prohibited for 24 hours). 7 among them subsequently sought medical treatment and 5 have had ongoing health problems.

History of Organic Farming:

Before 1900’s farming was organic, as the farmers didn’t have knowledge on chemical and its utilization. But after 1900, chemicals got utilization as urea and DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane). Urea is nitrogen-release fertilizer and DDT is an organochlorine pesticide that has been used as an insecticide in agriculture and to combat insect vectors of diseases such as malaria and typhus. During 1960’s and 1970’s the concept of organic food became a separate entity to the ‘normal’/conventional food.

According to Datamonitor, a world-leading provider of premium global business information, the global organic food market was about USD 36.7 billion in 2006, USD 43.5 billion in 2007 and USD 52 billion in 2008. On average the market growth of organic food is about 20%.

clip_image002According to Organic Exchange (OE), a non-profit organization, global OC apparel and home textile products market was about $3.2 billion in 2008, which represent a 68% increase from the $1.9 billion market in 2007. It is estimated $4 billion market in 2009 and a $5.3 billion market in 2010. The amount of OC farmers grew worldwide in 2007/08 increased 152 percent.

Organic Farming:

According to Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on crops rotation, green manure, compost, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation, etc., to maintain soil productivity and control pests, excluding or strictly limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Similarly OC means the cotton that is grown without using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, and GMO seeds. In conventional cotton production GMO seeds are harvested which are treated with fungicides or insecticides, applies synthetic fertilizers and herbicide, and requires intensive irrigation. On the contrary, in OC cultivation, untreated seeds are used, instead of fertilizers, crops rotation are done to build suitable soil, physical efforts are applied to inhibits weed germination, mixture of chillies, garlic and soap are used to deter pests without destroying their predators.

clip_image004According to Hierarchy of Pollution Control, growing OC belongs to the ‘Pollution Prevention’ (also known as source reduction), which is the act of eliminating the pollutant before it is generated.

Cotton Production in Bangladesh:

Cotton production in Bangladesh was 7705 tones in fiscal year 2007-08. Next fiscal year of 2008-09 cotton production increase about 19.5% to 9200 tones. It is forecasted for the year of 2009-10 cotton production 9500 tones while cotton consumption in the same year forecasted 669,500tones. It means that Bangladesh produces only 1.42% of its total demand of cotton.
In the year of 2008-09 total 32,600 hectares areas were harvested for 9200 tones of cotton production in Bangladesh. People Tree, an ecological clothing label, which is certified by the Soil Association and Fairtrade Foundation, has launched a campaign to boost the preparation of cotton grown organically from 0.6 to 10% by 2010.

As a part of promotion of growing OC, People Tree is working to convert conventional cotton cultivation into OC cultivation. People Tree started pilot projects at Waster Concern in Bogra district and Swallows in Thanapara.  To get trained agriculturalists in the projects, the organization had sent human resources to Agrocel in India. These pilot projects have been successful, resulting good fiber length organic   cotton (length same as Indian organic cotton) production. Bangladesh Cotton Development Board and Mohipur Agriculture Training Institute (MATI) played active roles as well. Experts’ opinioned Bangladeshi climate is quite suitable to produce OC. Experts confirmed that cultivating OC is beneficial to our farmers because farmers could get higher price of organic cotton than that of traditional cotton while organic cotton production is lower due to no use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

Advantages of Organic Cotton:

clip_image006Fig: Fish Diagram showing advantages of OC

Developing OC cultivation in Bangladesh through Adoption and Diffusion Process:

Adoption and Diffusion is well-known process/theory concerning the spread of new innovation, ideas or technology in a community. Adoption process is, simply, the acceptation of innovation/ideas and Diffusion is a process by which the spread of a new idea (innovation) from its source of innovation or creation to its ultimate users or adopters.

Understanding diffusion and adoption processes are crucial for growing awareness about OC and its prospects and potential in agriculture society and for the country. Applying this process is essential in spreading OC concepts and its stronger acceptance in concern societies. In most cases, success came in sociology, political science, civics, marketing, management, public health, communications, economics, education, and technology, by applying this Adoption and Diffusion Theory.

The acceptance and spread of OC are not up to the mark, as expected by the global promoters of OC concept. The reasons of the failure can be summarized as: government’s intervention through subsidized price of high yield seeds, pesticides and fertilizers while buying organic seed in higher cost; lack of regular training, motivation, supports from promoters; need for improved policy and lobbying; lack of effective market communication and costly OC certification; few vendors for OC; little that has known experimentally about growing and processing of OC; and, long list of quality and technical issues.

International Organizations for OC Program Development:

International organizations; namely Organic Exchange, Fair Trade Foundation, Institute for Marketecology (IMO), Soil Association, Oxfam, Control Union (formerly known ‘SKAL’, EcoCert; have developed new information, tools, and business models for helping countries/companies develop and implement OC programs. Well-known agency in the world ‘ECOCERT’ is responsible for inspecting its conformity with the following standards: Ecocert Fair Trade Standards, EC 2092/91 Standards (European Standards), USDA NOP Standards (American Standards), JAS Standards (Japanese Standards) while another well-known agency ‘SKAL’/Control Union is responsible for EC 2092/91 standards and USDA NOP standards. Only fiber certifications are ‘OE 100 Organic Standard’ and ‘OE Blended Standard’ while full product certification is done under ‘Global Organic Textile Standard’ (GTOS).


Organic raised cotton is gradually winning over new ground both on the farm and in the market places by crossing barriers like awareness, negative perception, distrust, availability and price. Consumers’ desire for ethical products is the principal force for offering organic cotton products. I believe that organic cotton is the best for clothing for environmental and humanitarian reasons and especially best for a child’s sensitive skin. Wearing non-organic cotton has not been proven to be directly bad for our health but growing non-organic cotton has serious impact on environment, and on those who farm the raw materials. At this moment, organic cotton is considered only for niche market demand and products, but as the awareness is increasing on environment protection and therefore for organic cotton, within short time may capture main market. I believe that government; private sector and producer associations each have necessary roles to play in promoting and facilitating cultivation or organic cotton and its marketability. They should develop supply chain relationship all the way back to the farmers, empower small-scale farmers, train and educate farmers. They should also create the supply chain of OC (raw cotton to final cotton products) with ‘Pull Strategy’ while present supply chain is based on ‘Push Strategy’. It is very easy for Bangladesh to become 100% organic cotton producing country as we cultivate very lower amount of cotton.


Bangladesh Cotton and Products Annual (GAIN Report Nr. BG9007)
Article: Eco-labelling Applications in the Textile and Apparel Sector in Turkey by Turan Atilgan
Rogers, E. M.(2003).Diffusion of innovations.
Organic Exchange. (2008). Organic cotton market report. www.organicexchange.org

PAN Germany.(2007). Organic cotton—background information. http://www.pan-germany.net/baumwolle/en/index.htm

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