From the 69th Plenary Meeting of the ICAC -to put cotton facts straight

During the 69th Plenary Meeting of the ICAC accentuated that despite the positive impacts of cotton and benefits to consumers, and despite current research data, cotton is being severely criticized for having

negative impacts on the environment and for social abuses. Criticism of the cotton industry and cotton production does not always come from commercial interests seeking competitive advantage or from outside the cotton sector but also from government publications. Dr. T.Townsend, Executive Director of ICAC recommended e.g., to listening to allegations and

considering appropriate strategies in response, to improve cotton’s performance as well as to confront egregious misinformation campaigns. For instance, rather than accounting for 25% of all pesticides used worldwide, as is commonly alleged, cotton accounted for 6.2% of world pesticide sales in 2009, It is alleged that cotton is a water-intensive crop, but cotton accounts for between 2% and 3% of world agricultural water use, proportional to cotton area. A particular frustration is the intermingled use of the terms, “agricultural chemicals,” “pesticides,” “fertilizers,” and “insecticides,” as if all are equivalent. This allows detractors to malign the cotton industry by claiming hundreds of kilograms of “dangerous chemicals” are applied per hectare of cotton production, when applications of plant protection chemicals amount to a few kilograms per hectare at most, and even these are applied safely almost all the time. The presentation of Wally Darnielle, President and CEO of Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, took on the issue of the negative representation of the cotton sector and presented further facts: Cotton removes the equivalent of about 7 million cars’ carbon dioxide emissions from the air each year through sequestration of carbon into the plant and its products, and it uses less than 3% of all agricultural water consumption globally. Next to the radical reduction of pesticide use the application of insecticide active ingredients was reduced by 23% globally since 1996, leading to a 28% decrease in environmental impact. U.S. cotton producers use 45% less water to grow a kilogram of cotton today than 25 years ago. Insecticide applications declined since 1996, helped by the use of biotechnology and other modern technologies.

Cotton is grown in more than 100 countries on approximately 33 million hectares (2.5% of the world’s arable land). The cotton sector is estimated at more than 250 million people. The value of world cotton production in 2009/10 amounted to about US$37 billion.

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