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The word “cotton” as we know it today originates from the Arabic word “qutun”. In Middle Dutch, it was also known as “cotton”, and with the development of Afrikaans as a spoken language it became “catoen” and eventually “katoen”.

Nobody knows exactly how long cotton has been in existence. That said, archaeologists have found fragments of cotton bolls and cloth that are more than 7000 years old in prehistoric caves in Mexico.

The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to prehistoric times; fragments of cotton fabric dated to the fifth millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley Civilisation, as well as fabric remnants dated back to 6000 BC in Peru.

Although cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the production cost that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fibre cloth in clothing today. Eli Whitney, an American inventor, patented the first ginning machine in 1793. The machine allowed workers to separate the fibre from the seed 50 times faster than the manual process. He called the machine a “gin”, an abbreviation of the word “engine”. Even today, the process of separating the fibre from seed is known as ginning.

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In South Africa, historical documents record that a man named Barbosa found indigenous people growing and wearing cotton as early as 1516. This was a species of wild cotton which still exists today.

The first cottonseed was planted in 1690 in the Western Cape, 40 years after Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival. According to the information available, Dr Adams brought seed from America in 1846 and started growing cotton in the Amanzimtoti district in KwaZulu-Natal. The American Civil War escalated the demand for cotton, and it was planted on a relatively large scale between 1860 and 1870 in both the Natal and the Cape Colony. Production came to a virtual standstill after 1870, only picking up again at the start of the twentieth century.

In 1904, about 12 to 14 hectares were planted in the Tzaneen area. A cotton gin was erected in the area in 1905, enabling cotton to be ginned and baled mechanically. A Mr Taylor established an experimental station in Rustenburg in 1913 to advise farmers. Between that year and 1922, cotton was cultivated mainly in the then-named Transvaal Lowveld and Eastern Transvaal (today called Mpumalanga).

In 1922, the co-operative movement was established in Barberton when a co-operative and ginnery were established there.

Even in the early days of its cultivation, cotton played an important role in the manufacture of explosives when African Explosives erected a ginnery at Umbogintwini in KwaZulu-Natal in 1924.

In the same year, Mr Rouxliard erected a ginnery at Magut in KwaZulu-Natal, and the Lancashire Cotton Corporation Spinners, from the United Kingdom, established another at Louis Trichardt in 1935. At that point, fibre was exported to Liverpool for spinning and weaving since there were no facilities available in South Africa.

In 1927 cotton was grown under irrigation in the Lower Orange River area for the first time. Cotton production dropped in the early 1930s, and the next ginnery was only erected late in that decade at Standerton.

According to Section 102 of the Co-operative Societies Act (Act 29 of 1929), cotton was officially declared an agricultural crop in 1939.

China’s inclusion in the WTO in 2001 caused local textile and clothing manufacturers to suffer due to cheaper imports. The manufacturing industry’s capacity reduced to a fraction of what it was in early 2000, with the 20 spinning plants being reduced to the current four.

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The first step in processing harvested cotton takes place at the ginnery. Fibre, which makes up around 35%-40% of the total mass of cotton, is separated from the seed (50%-55%). The fibre consists almost exclusively of cellulose (a type of sugar) and is the most important cotton product from a commercial viewpoint.

 

Cotton is unique in that it is both a food and fibre crop and not only provides fibre for the textile industry but also plays an essential role in the food industry as its seeds are rich in oil and protein.

TITLE-BARS-FACTS-VERSUS-MYTHS

Cotton is a unique crop with the fact that it is the only agricultural commodity that provides fibre and food (for both people and livestock). It is the world’s most important natural fibre and has been used for more than 7000 years. It is produced in more than 100 countries worldwide and contributes to more than a 100-million jobs worldwide.

It is a crop that thrives in warm, dry regions where few other crops can grow and therefore also contribute to alleviate poverty in some of the least developed countries in the world. More than 60% of the world’s cotton is produced by smallholder farmers in developing countries, who are some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

Unlike synthetic products, it is sustainable, renewable, biologically degradable and carbon neutral and can be used without weakening or damaging the environment, making it an excellent choice as an environmentally friendly fibre during its entire life cycle.

Three are many myths, misinformation, misunderstandings and outright lies communicated about the cotton industry. Many of these falsehoods about cotton have unfortunately come to be accepted as facts by the uninformed media as well as those who seek to benefit from undermining the global cotton industry.

#TruthAboutCotton

 

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE, TRACEABLE, AND ORGANIC COTTON?

Sustainability is defined as  “finding the balance between profitability, protecting the environment and being socially responsible”. According to the United Nations, sustainability in the cotton industry means the ability to produce cotton today without reducing future generations’ ability to do the same. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the world’s largest and fastest-growing cotton sustainability programme. 

TRACEABLE COTTON is tracked in a traceability system from the farm to the shelf. Such a system follows specific rules that define the data that must be gathered and stored at each stage of the supply chain. The purpose of traceability is to:

• Improve the integrity of the supply chain by substantiating label claims.
• Trace materials back to their origin.
• Support effective audits by having complete records at hand.
• Respond quickly and effectively to crises such as recalls.

ORGANIC COTTON is grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic chemicals, as fertilisers.  Only biological products are allowed in an organic setup. The farming practices prohibit the use of genetically modified seed. For a farm to be certified as an organic farm, producing organic products, the cotton has to be planted in soil that has not been treated with any synthetic chemical for three years. Organic cotton research has been tested in South Africa, but yields are not profitable, and farmers are not subsidised here, as in other countries, to farm organically. Many organic farming systems in Africa farms organic by default. No conventional cottonseed is available in South Africa since organic production is not commercially viable. Thus, no organic cotton is produced in South Africa. 

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WHAT IS  GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) COTTON?

Genetically modified (GM) cotton is genetically altered cotton to exhibit one or two traits of which one is Bt-cotton, and the other is herbicide-resistant cotton. 

Bt crops contain genes derived from a soil-living bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The bacterium produces a protein that is detrimental to the bollworms’ digestive system, reducing the use of pesticides. The Bt-genes provides bollworm tolerance against four species of the bollworm, and it is rarely necessary to spray against bollworms. All cottonseed sold in South Africa contains the Bt-gene.

The cotton has a herbicide-tolerant trait, called RoundupReady Flex® that has glyphosate as its active ingredient, enabling farmers to spray glyphosate over the plant canopy till late in the season. This is highly effective against most of the annual and perennial weeds that can be problematic during the later stages of crop development.

GMO varieties have been tested thoroughly before the technology was de-regulated in South Africa. It is important to note that environmental impact studies are done to determine the effect on non-target pests and beneficial insects, like bees.

WHY DO WE USE GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) SEEDS?

“GM seed is not intended to assist growers to increase productivity (yields) but to curtail losses to insect predation and since insect attacks are so persistent, this could result in higher yields than what would have been obtained with conventional seed” Dr Kranthi, Nature Plants, March 2020. 

Added advantages are the protection of the environment since fewer pesticides are required. Less hazardous gasses are released into the environment due to the decrease of tractor sprays. It also contributes to an increased population of beneficial insects due to minimising the use of chemical sprays that affect beneficial insects.

In Africa, smallholder farmers do not have easy access to pesticides. Therefore, GMO’s, with resistance to bollworms and some herbicides, can make a difference in the way smallholders farm and improve their lives.

COTTON FACTS

TITLE-BARS---HISTORY-OF-COTTON-1

The word “cotton” as we know it today originates from the Arabic word “qutun”. In Middle Dutch, it was also known as “cotton”, and with the development of Afrikaans as a spoken language it became “catoen” and eventually “katoen”.

Nobody knows exactly how long cotton has been in existence. That said, archaeologists have found fragments of cotton bolls and cloth that are more than 7000 years old in prehistoric caves in Mexico.

The use of cotton for fabric is known to date to prehistoric times; fragments of cotton fabric dated to the fifth millennium BC have been found in the Indus Valley Civilisation, as well as fabric remnants dated back to 6000 BC in Peru.

Although cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the production cost that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fibre cloth in clothing today. Eli Whitney, an American inventor, patented the first ginning machine in 1793. The machine allowed workers to separate the fibre from the seed 50 times faster than the manual process. He called the machine a “gin”, an abbreviation of the word “engine”. Even today, the process of separating the fibre from seed is known as ginning.

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TITLE-BARS-HISTORY-OF-COTTON-IN-SOUTH-AFRICA
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In South Africa, historical documents record that a man named Barbosa found indigenous people growing and wearing cotton as early as 1516. This was a species of wild cotton which still exists today.

The first cottonseed was planted in 1690 in the Western Cape, 40 years after Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival. According to information available, Dr Adams brought seed from America in 1846 and started growing cotton in the Amanzimtoti district in KwaZulu-Natal. The American Civil War escalated the demand for cotton, and it was planted on a relatively large scale between 1860 and 1870 in both the Natal and the Cape Colony. Production came to a virtual standstill after 1870, only picking up again at the start of the twentieth century.

In 1904, about 12 to 14 hectares were planted in the Tzaneen area. A cotton gin was erected in the area in 1905, enabling cotton to be ginned and baled mechanically. A Mr Taylor established an experimental station in Rustenburg in 1913 to advise farmers. Between that year and 1922, cotton was cultivated mainly in the then-named Transvaal Lowveld and Eastern Transvaal (today called Mpumalanga).

In 1922, the co-operative movement was established in Barberton when a co-operative and ginnery were established there.

Even in the early days of its cultivation, cotton played an important role in the manufacture of explosives, when African Explosives erected a ginnery at Umbogintwini in KwaZulu-Natal in 1924.

In the same year Mr Rouxliard erected a ginnery at Magut in KwaZulu-Natal, and the Lancashire Cotton Corporation Spinners, from the United Kingdom, established another at Louis Trichardt in 1935. At that point, fibre was exported to Liverpool for spinning and weaving, since there were no facilities available in South Africa.

In 1927 cotton was grown under irrigation in the Lower Orange River area for the first time.

Cotton production dropped in the early 1930s, and the next ginnery was only erected late in that decade at Standerton.

According to Section 102 of the Co-operative Societies Act (Act 29 of 1929), cotton was officially declared an agricultural crop in 1939.

China’s inclusion in the WTO in 2001, caused local textile and clothing manufacturers to suffer due to cheaper imports. The manufacturing industry’s capacity reduced to a fraction of what it was in early 2000 with the 20 spinning plants being reduced to the current four.

TITLE-BARS---HISTORY-OF-COTTON-8

The first step in processing harvested cotton takes place at the ginnery. Fibre, which makes up around 35%-40% of the total mass of cotton, is separated from the seed (50%-55%). The fibre consists almost exclusively of cellulose (a type of sugar) and is the most important cotton product from a commercial viewpoint.

 

Cotton is unique in that it is both a food and fibre crop and not only provides fibre for the textile industry but also plays an essential role in the food industry as its seeds are rich in oil and protein.

TITLE-BARS-FACTS-VERSUS-MYTHS

Cotton is a unique crop because it is the only agricultural commodity that provides fibre and food (for both people and livestock).

It is the world’s most important natural fibre and has been used for more than 7000 years. It is produced in more than 100 countries worldwide and contributes to more than a 100-million jobs worldwide.

It is a crop that thrives in warm, dry regions where few other crops can grow and therefore also contribute to alleviating poverty in some of the least developed countries in the world. More than 60% of the world’s cotton is produced by smallholder farmers in developing countries, who are some of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

Unlike synthetic products, it is sustainable, renewable, biologically degradable and carbon neutral. It can be used without weakening or damaging the environment, making it an excellent choice as an environmentally friendly fibre during its entire life cycle.

Three are many myths, misinformation, misunderstandings and outright lies communicated about the cotton industry. Many of these falsehoods about cotton have unfortunately come to be accepted as facts by the uninformed media as well as those who seek to benefit from undermining the global cotton industry.

#TruthAboutCotton

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUSTAINABLE, TRACEABLE, AND ORGANIC COTTON?

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SUSTAINABILITY is defined as  “finding the balance between profitability, protecting the environment and being socially responsible”. According to the United Nations, sustainability in the cotton industry means producing cotton today without reducing future generations’ ability to do the same. The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)  is the world’s largest and fastest-growing cotton sustainability programme.

 

TRACEABLE COTTON is tracked in a traceability system from the farm to the shelf. Such a system follows specific rules that define the data that must be gathered and stored at each stage of the supply chain.

The purpose of traceability is to:

• Improve the integrity of the supply chain by substantiating label claims.

• Trace materials back to their origin.

• Support effective audits by having complete records at hand.

• Respond quickly and effectively to crises such as recalls.

COLUMN-IMAGE-1-GM-SEEDS

ORGANIC COTTON is grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic chemicals as fertilisers. Only biological products are allowed in an organic setup. The farming practices prohibit the use of genetically modified seed. For a farm to be certified as an organic farm producing organic products, the cotton has to be planted in soil that has not been treated with any synthetic chemical for three years. Organic cotton research has been tested in South Africa, but yields are not profitable, and farmers are not subsidised here, as in other countries, to farm organically. Many organic farming systems in Africa farms organic by default. No conventional cottonseed is available in South Africa since organic production is not commercially viable. Thus, no organic cotton is produced in South Africa. 

COLUMN-IMAGE-1-ORGANIC-COTTON

 

WHAT IS GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) COTTON?

Genetically modified (GM) cotton is genetically altered cotton to exhibit one or two traits, of which one is Bt-cotton, and the other is herbicide-resistant cotton.

Bt crops contain genes derived from a soil-living bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The bacterium produces a protein that is detrimental to the bollworms’ digestive system, reducing the use of pesticides. The Bt-genes provides bollworm tolerance against four bollworm species, and it is rarely necessary to spray against bollworms. All cottonseed sold in South Africa contains Bt-gene.

The cotton has a herbicide-tolerant trait called RoundupReady Flex® that has glyphosate as its active ingredient, enabling farmers to spray glyphosate over the plant canopy till late in the season. This is highly effective against most of the annual and perennial weeds that can be problematic during the later stages of crop development.

GMO varieties have been tested thoroughly before the technology was de-regulated in South Africa. It is important to note that environmental impact studies are done to determine the effect on non-target pests and beneficial insects, like bees.

 

WHY DO WE USE GENETICALLY MODIFIED (GM) SEEDS?

“GM seed is not intended to assist growers in increasing productivity (yields) but to curtail losses to insect predation and since insect attacks are so persistent, this could result in higher yields than what would have been obtained with conventional seed” Dr Kranthi, Nature Plants, March 2020.

Added advantages are the protection of the environment since fewer pesticides are required. Less hazardous gasses are released into the environment due to the decrease of tractor sprays. It also contributes to an increased population of beneficial insects due to minimising the use of chemical sprays that affect beneficial insects.

In Africa, smallholder farmers do not have easy access to pesticides. Therefore, GMO’s, with resistance to bollworms and some herbicides, can make a difference in the way smallholders farm and improve their lives.