The summer after I finished college I worked at a sort of convenience/camp store in beautiful Big Sur, California. It was a wonderful summer but I remember a particular customer who scoffed at the organic chocolate bar we had displayed on the counter: “First tomatoes and now this.” This remark has stuck with me these many years because that was a fairly common sentiment in 2010. People, even people in liberal, hippy California didn’t necessarily understand the importance of organic tomatoes and organic chocolate and organic everything else.
WHY ORGANIC IS IMPORTANT:
Given the choice: organic is better for the health of the consumer, the environment, and the people who grow our food .
When it comes to the environment organic agriculture is important in protecting ecosystem health including water quality, soil health, and biodiversity .
- Monoculture planting, or conventional farming, results in nutrient depletion of the soil, these nutrients must then be added back into the soil via synthetic fertilizers . Storm run-off (rainwater) from farms picks up these synthetic fertilizers which then end up in streams as accessible nutrients and can result in algal blooms that affect water quality and can cause massive fish die-offs . Nutrient pollutants often enter upstream water sources like creeks and streams then flow into larger bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and bays even sometimes reaching the coastal ocean waters where agal blooms occur .
- Monoculture planting also reduces biodiversity of both plants and animals through habitat destruction (cutting down trees to plant crops). This leads to an ecosystem that is out of balance where plants and animals that are considered to be pests can thrive . To control these pests synthetic pesticides and herbicides are introduced into the already off balance ecosystem. Storm run-off, again, can pick up synthetic pesticides and carry them into nearby streams and creeks. According to the US Geological Survey report, the majority of streams in the US contain pesticides or pesticide residues .
In terms of human health, these synthetic fertilizers and pesticides can be very dangerous.
- Nitrates are a form of nitrogen that is easily absorbed by plants thus they are a substantial component of most fertilizers . However in humans, high levels of nitrates lower the ability of red blood cells to carry and deliver oxygen . Infants who ingest high levels of nitrates can become very ill and even die . Nutrients can soak into ground waters, which provide drinking water for millions of Americans, and can become airborne resulting in nitrogen pollution and causing hazy skies and air quality problems in urban areas across the country . In 2010 a report done by the US Geological Survey found that nitrate levels were too high in 64% of shallow monitoring wells in both agricultural and urban areas .
- Depending on the type of produce and where it is grown, the concentration of pesticides can be very different . We don’t know a lot about the health effects but we know that 29 different pesticides are present in the average American . Pesticide levels on produce have declined since 1996 when congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act, it states that the levels of pesticides must be safe for children and infants . Children and workers are at the greatest risk of the negative effects of pesticides . In 2010 a report released by the President’s Cancer Panel wrote a review on the use of pesticides in the US and concluded that many of the pesticides used may contribute to a slew of reproductive disorders including cancers .
Recent studies have shown that using biological fertilizers, instead of synthetic fertilizers, builds organic matter in the soil which has been linked to a decrease in nutrient run off and an increase in a crop’s ability to withstand or repel insect attack and plant disease .
Wow. I apologize for all that science if it's not something you're into. Ultimately: synthetic fertilizers are bad and A LOT of them are used in conventional farming.
The Global Organic Textile Standard is one of the world’s leading processing standards for textiles made from organic fibers . The Standard defines environmental criteria along the entire supply chain of organic textiles (spinning, knitting, weaving, wet processing, manufacturing, and trading) and also requires compliance with social criteria . Global Organic Textile Standard does not include certification of farms that produce raw products (like cotton) but the fibers must be certified organic based on national or international standards .
- Criteria to be certified as an organic textile producer covers processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading, and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers .
- Required social criteria are based on norms of the International Labor Organization and include: freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, working conditions that are safe and hygienic, receiving a living wage, working hours that are not excessive, and working regular hours . Discrimination, harsh or inhuman treatment, forced labor, and child labor are prohibited .
The GOTS quality assurance system is based on on-site inspection and certification of the textile processing and trade chain . The GOTS certifier reviews bookkeeping to verify to flow of goods, assesses the processing and storage system, assesses the separation and identification of areas of risk to organic integrity, inspects chemical inputs (dyes, etc.) for compliance with GOTS, inspects waste water and treatment system of wet processors, checks social criteria, and verifies the operator’s risk assessment of contamination and residue testing policy .
Operators at all stages have to undergo an on-site annual inspection cycle and must hold a valid certification as prerequisite in order for final products to be labelled as GOTS certified . Processors and manufacturers that receive a GOTS scope certification have demonstrated to the assigned certifier that they are able to work in compliance with all applicable GOTS criteria in the fields of operations and for the product groups shown on their certificate .
Only textiles produced and certified according to the provisions of the standard can carry the GOTS label . Products that are made with at least 95% certified organic fiber can be labeled ‘Organic’ and products that are made with at least 70% certified organic fiber can be labeled ‘Made with Organic’.
All in all I’m pretty impressed with this organization. Their website was pretty difficult to navigate but I eventually kind of figured out what they were trying to do. The fact that they rely on other organizations to ensure that the fibers they process were organically grown seems a little off the map considering that they do literally everything else. However, I still feel 100% comfortable buying GOTS products.