Posted by keith on November 25th, 2008
Let’s start with some facts:
Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants.). (Allan Woodburn)
Approximately 10% of all pesticides sold for use in U. S. agriculture were applied to cotton in 1997, the most recent year for which such data is publicly available. (ACPA)
Fifty-five million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on the 12.8 million acres of conventional cotton grown in the U.S. in 2003 (4.3 pounds/ acre), ranking cotton third behind corn and soybeans in total amount of pesticides sprayed. (USDA)
Over 2.03 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to conventional cotton in 2000 (142 pounds/acre), making cotton the fourth most heavily fertilized crop behind corn, winter wheat, and soybeans. (USDA)
The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as “possible,” “likely,” “probable,” or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos, and trifluralin). (EPA)
In 1999, a work crew re-entered a cotton field about five hours after it was treated with tribufos and sodium chlorate (re-entry should have been prohibited for 24 hours). Seven workers subsequently sought medical treatment and five have had ongoing health problems. (California DPR)
This information, from the Organic Trade Association in the USA makes it pretty clear why conventional cotton is a bad thing, and why it would be utterly impossible for any company to get away with labelling something containing conventional cotton as “environmentally friendly” or “eco”.
So I was rather taken aback when, on one of my ocassional jaunts to Sainsbury’s — there are a few things I can only get there, and it gives me a chance to switch off all the televisions — I came across a product called Sainsbury’s Little Ones Eco Fragrance Free Wipes. Yes, you did notice the word “Eco” there, which would imply that they must be biodegradable at least, and perhaps made of organic materials, and at the very least fully recyclable.
If you listen to the audio, you can hear a poor customer services representative trying to justify why they should be labelled “eco”. She doesn’t do a very good job, and how could she? After all, they are not organic, they are not biodegradable and they are not recyclable. Even the ingredients are suspect:
Water, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Cocoyl Apple Amino Acids, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Chamomilla Recutita, Aloe Barbadensis, Tocopheryl Acetate.
She said it wasn’t oil based, but apart from the packaging, three of the ingredients are derived from oil: Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol and Panthenol; which means that the wipes themselves are not even what they claim.
So, Sainsbury’s, if you are reading this — you have been sussed, and I’m never going to trust your labels ever again.