I saw your recent commercial regarding sustainability. It shares your commitment to change your production now to help protect our environment for the future. You reported that already half of your materials “are recycled, organic, or sustainably sourced.” And you promise that by 2030, it will be 100 percent.
Let me be clear: trying to transition your business to a more sustainable model is awesome! Fast-and-cheap fashion has a big environmental footprint. So while your clothes are good for the ladies on a budget, it also taxes the environment.
But I’m afraid at least one piece of your strategy is more virtue signalling than anything else. That’s your adoption of organic fabrics. I’m not surprised you’re confused though; organic marketing has done quite a good job of confusing people. As a result, people tend to associate organic with environmentally friendly.
If you’re using organic cotton though, you’re missing out on the benefits of modern agriculture. More specifically, genetically modified crops, which aren’t allowed in organic production.
And that’s a big deal. Bioengineered cotton plants produce the Bt protein. The insects that like to feed on–and destroy–cotton plants aren’t able to digest the Bt protein. So when the munch on the cotton plant, it kills them. The good news: it’s completely harmless to humans. We digest the Bt protein just like any other protein.
The modification might not seem like a big deal, but it’s produced major results. Insecticide applications to cotton have been cut in half in the United States. In fact, in 2008, 44 percent of cotton fields required no foliar applications. And that same year, almost one-third of U.S. cotton acres required no insecticide applications at all. Remarkably, cotton yields have actually increased.
Farmers enjoy benefits, too. Cotton growers have seen their income increase by about $250 per hectare. GMO cotton has also decreased their costs for insecticide supplies, equipment, and labor.
But organic producers have been completely left out. Because the USDA’s organic program doesn’t allow genetically modified crops, organic farmers are still spraying insecticide onto their fields (yes, organic farmers use pesticides, too). And they aren’t seeing the boost in yields. So it takes more organic acres–and the resulting environmental impact–to grow the same as conventional acres. In fact, some estimates indicate that organic cotton yields less than half the global average per acre of conventional cotton. That’s huge!
So while I admire your sustainability goals, I’m asking that you reconsider your strategy. Turn back to conventionally grown cotton. Increase your reliance on GMO cotton. Invest in the discovery of new bioengineered traits. This is how we reach a sustainable future.
If you don’t, then your commercials, your policies, and your company are just paying lip service to these issues. It’s nothing more than virtue signalling. And that’s just not acceptable.