All posts by Terry

Cotton and Water Use

Cotton and Water Use

(Adapted from a recent publication by ICAC and FAO: Measuring Sustainability in Cotton Farming Systems, Towards a Guidance Framework.

Resource use is a critical factor in all production systems. With the world population growing to more than 9 billion by 2050, combined with rising incomes leading to increased commodity consumption, there will be increased pressure on the use of agricultural land, water and energy. Cotton will be competing with other users, both agricultural and non-agricultural, for access to resources, and all farmers will be under pressure to raise yields per hectare, yields per liter and yields per calorie in order to remain viable in the economy of the future. Continue reading

What is Wrong With Buffer Stocks?

Why shouldn’t countries build buffer stocks?

 In mid-March 2015, the Ministry of Textiles of the Government of India floated a proposal to guard against year-to-year fluctuations in cotton production by limiting exports in order to build a “reservoir” for use by the domestic textile industry (Business Standard, March 18, 2015).  What’s wrong with this proposal? Continue reading

Uzbekistan and Cotton Production

Uzbekistan and Cotton Production
Cotton production in Uzbekistan is associated with the destruction of the Aral Sea, with child and forced labor, with pesticide poisoning and with autocratic government. It seems as if no allegation is too evil that someone hasn’t tied it to the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. As one example, an NGO recently asserted that the Uzbekistan government expanded the cotton industry after independence in the early 1990s and developed a massive irrigation system and diverted water destined for the Aral Sea (Innovation Forum Special Report, a Management briefing on Sustainable and ethical cotton sourcing, sponsored by CottonConnect). “Vast monoculture farms growing only cotton were established, with huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides ….” Continue reading

The Five R’s of Environmental Responsibility: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, ROT

7. Five Rs

By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, Jenna R. Jambeck and co-authors writing in the Journal Science estimated that 275 million metric tons of plastic waste were generated worldwide in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million tons entering the ocean (Science 13 February 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6223 pp. 768-771) The authors noted that world plastic production increased by 620% in the last 40 years, and without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of ten by 2025.

7. Picture 3

A trash-covered creek in Manila, Philippines. Francis R. Malasig/U.S. EPA.

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The 2014 US Farm Bill and its Implications for Cotton Producers in Low-income Developing Countries

The Agricultural Act of 2014, the U.S. “farm bill,” will provide substantially less support to the cotton sector of the United States than has been provided under previous farm bills. Given that the government of the United States is mandating the use of biofuels in the US fuel supply, prices for corn and soybeans will probably remain higher on average than they were in the past. Accordingly, U.S. cotton production is likely to trend downward toward 3 million tons of lint per year over the next five years as harvested area in regions where cotton competes with corn and soybeans moves toward the biofuel crops. The increases in prices of corn and soybeans will also affect planting decisions in other major cotton producing countries. Accordingly, the supply of cotton from competing exporting countries, especially the United States, is likely to be reduced in the future.

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Response to Neil Young, Protect Earth Campaign


Dear Mr. Young,


Regarding your vow to Protect Earth via advocacy of organic cotton,


Based on the latest information from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), world cotton production accounted for 2.6% of world arable land in 2011, the latest data available. Your assertion that cotton accounts for almost 5% of earth’s arable land is in error by a factor of two, and this is actually one of the more benign and least inaccurate messages about cotton on your web site. Continue reading

Cotton and the Aral Sea

Cotton and the Aral Sea

Between about 1929 and his death in 1953, most historians now estimate that Stalin had been directly responsible for the deaths of somewhere around 20 million people. Most estimates are that between a third and half the dead perished in famines in the early 1930s. (Adam Hochschild, The Unquiet Ghost, 2003) Those famines are not blamed on the wheat industry. Continue reading

Chemical Use In Cotton, Perspective Needed

Chemical Use in Cotton, Perspective Needed

The Associated Press reported on March 28, 2014:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Fire officials say an explosion involving a tank of nitric acid has injured nine workers at a Rolls-Royce plant near the Indianapolis International Airport.


This is one of many news stories that appear daily around the world regarding accidents involving chemicals. Chemicals used in industries are toxic. Workers are exposed. Injury, and even death, happens.

Cotton is often demonized because of injuries and deaths that occur from unsafe chemical handling practices, and advocates of organic cotton or recycled polyester argue that their products should be used instead. Such assertions  lack perspective on the context of an industry that employees about 250 million people.

The accident in Indianapolis occurred at an aircraft engine factory. No one argues that because of industrial accidents in the manufacturing of aircraft engines we should all start using organic transportation by riding horses and ships again. And, nobody demonizes airplanes because workers involved in their production are injured in chemical spills.