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Book of Abstracts

11th IFOAM
Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Organic and Naturally Coloured Cotton from Peru S2

Vreeland, J. M.

Native Cotton Project, Peru, San Isidro F-3, Vallecito, Arequipa, Peru, Fax 005154 22 7128

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Naturally pigmented and organically cultivated cotton has been produced in Andean South America since at least 2,500 BC, and continues to be grown as a dooryard crop by numerous peasant and indigenous Indian farmers on the coast and high jungle regions of northern Peru. This paper summarizes the history and recent revival of interest in the commercial production of »Native Cotton« since 1993, for both domestic and export markets, from fibre to finished garments. White organic »Tangüis« cotton, a commercial long-staple variety obtained at the turn of the century from native cotton stocks, has also emerged as an excellent fibre for carding and combing to NE 36/1.

At the present time, revival of interest in chemical-free raw materials, minimally handled, environmentally »friendly« production strategies and industrial processes is contributing to a new demand for naturally pigmented and organically grown cotton fibre. Organic and naturally coloured cotton fibre has recently been introduced to U.S., European and Japanese markets for handicrafts, knits, sweaters, shirts, socks and other apparel, and for household textiles and furnishings, by several major fabric and clothing manufacturers and specialty producers.

The shift to organic cotton fibre production in both coloured and white lines represents a tiny fraction (less than 0.025%) of the some 35 million hectares of conventional cotton cultivated globally. But the trend is toward increasement, with over 10,000 hectares in white and pigmented forms. More an ethnical than economic issue at present, the move toward organic apparel and home furnishings is largely driven by the consumers perception of the cotton plant as hazardously agrochemical dependant. Recent studies by the Pesticides Trust in Great Britain indicate that cotton farming consumes almost 25% of all insecticides applied to crops, costing cotton farmers some US $ 3,800 million annually.

In 1993, according to the International Cotton Advisory Council, ICAC, organic cotton yields, compared to conventional, fell by 36% in the Argentina and India, 43% in Australia, but rose by 7% in Tennessee and Missouri. In Peru, yields are roughly 10-15% lower for white Tangüis, the principal commercial cultivar, producing an average of approximately 2 metric tons of seed cotton per 7 month cultivation period per hectare on conventional plots. One major producer, Pakucho Pax in Southern Peru, recently obtained a superior, long staple white Tangüis cotton yielding over double the national average on commercial, organic plots ranging from 2-15 hectares each.

Due to their rusticity and primitive character, naturally pigmented and white native varieties show no significant variation in yields, but are about half those of organic Tangüis cotton. Both Tangüis and native cottons are of the G. Barbadense series.

Vreeland, J.M. Jr. (1996): Proceedings, Bremer Baumwollbörse, 23rd International Cotton Conference, Faser institut, Bremen, H. Harig and S.A. Heap, editors, pp. 129-140.

Dinham, B. (1995): Pesticides used on cotton. Pesticides News, 28, 23.

Vreeland, J. M. Jr. (1993): Naturally Coloured and Organically Grown Cotton: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives, Beltwide Cotton Conferences, National Cotton Council, Memphis, 1533-1535.