If anything is to be learned from the template of Bt cotton it is that much of biotechnology in agriculture is an exercise in linear thinking, of reductionism, and of unexpected consequences.
This rich intertwined story of an heirloom seed, an age-old tradition, and a bright future all began when Sharon Gordon Donnan, an experienced filmmaker and textile conservator, spotted an old blanket while browsing at an antique sale in Washington, Louisiana.
This movement based on the intricate relationship between humanity and nature, forged through friendships with rural farmers and artisans, has tangibly changed cotton agriculture and khadi organizations throughout the country.
I don’t think I would have been as passionate about organic farming and ethical supply chains if I had grown up in Bombay or Delhi, somewhere far away. It’s because I saw all the damage happening first-hand that I’ve been so keen to bring about solutions and change.
Looking across the landscape, we see at least six key approaches to increasing soil carbon and so much more: integrating animals, rotating crops, building biodiversity with plantings like hedgerows, conserving soil with cover cropping, boosting soil fertility with fungal-dominated compost, and eventually finding methods for no-till cotton that do not depend on synthetic chemistry.
The Sustainable Cotton Project began in 1996 and has concentrated on creating a high-quality cotton fiber in the US that’s free of the most toxic pesticides and herbicides. Though not certified organic, it’s eliminated the most dangerous chemicals, and helped farmers connect with manufacturers under the Cleaner Cotton™ branding.
In 1989, she brought naturally colored cotton back to the market. The iconic image of a white cotton ball had become pervasive. Yet Sally Fox had been looking at ancient, pest-resistant (by nature) varieties that came in shades of the Earth like greens and browns.
Farmers are interested in how they can be a part of this carbon economy, Michael says. “But it’s a risky thing to experiment with given all the other pressures they have to deal with. So we need to flesh out in greater detail how carbon sequestration would work, and what would be the incentives to do so. We’re getting closer.”
Nathanael Siemens wants to bring regenerative and organic cotton to the San Joaquin Valley. He spends his mornings just walking the fields, trying to figure out what to do next, how to overcome the challenges that he faces daily from weed control to irrigation to simply getting a hold of enough seeds.