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Page  2  of  5

South Asian Cotton Textile Industry

Part 2



Salman Minhas


Non-organic cotton and chemicals

An entire cocktail of insecticides and pesticides is used in the cultivation of ‘commercial non-organic cotton. These chemical insecticides and pesticides [ malathion, aldicarb, methyl parathion, trifluralin, deltamethrin and tribufos] are some of the most lethal long-lived chemicals. Trifluralin, for example, stops the hormonal and reproductive systems of animals. Malathion causes cancer as does tribufos.  These compounds not only harm the workers who use them but also leach into the soil, reaching groundwater, rivers and streams, killing fish and contaminating livestock. After harvesting, white cotton is usually bleached with chlorine based processes that give rise to dioxins.  The cotton is then dyed with a whole host of other chemicals, many of which include heavy metals that often end up polluting the water in the ground.

Due to such chemicals, Endocrine system disruptions and rising cancer rates, consumers and manufacturers have increasingly been turning to organic cotton producers.  Although the specifics of certification vary from country to country, an organic producer generally can get a stamp of approval if no pesticides have been used on the land for one to three years. Skal , a Dutch based company is currently involved in certifying such organic agricultural products in South Asia .

The movement is gaining momentum, and currently some 20,000 acres in the U.S. and in half a dozen other countries produce organic cotton, including naturally pigmented cottons that do not have to be dyed with toxic chemicals [formaldehyde], which again is toxic

Genetically Engineered Cotton.

The name of Monsanto, a US based company springs up here as the bad boy of Genetically Modified seeds. The famous case study of the Monarch Butterfly case still reverberates with deadly potency in the case of genetically engineered cotton, which Monsanto is trying to sell hard. More of this will be covered in a later section on South Asian Textiles Part II - Agricultural practices.


Sea Island Cotton - The cloth of Kings & Agent 007.

Queen Victoria used Sea Island cotton handkerchiefs. Edward the VIII, the Duke of Windsor wore only Sea Island Cotton, and Ian Fleming’s fictional James Bond of the British Intelligence MI-6 ["agent 007, licensed to kill"] wore Sea Island Cotton shirts as he fought and seduced beautiful women in his sagas to save the world from the evil of SMERSH & later "Spectre", the Soviet sub-branch of the KGB secret service. [Smiert Spionam meaning "Death to Spies"].

These days, the CARSTARPHEN brand, makes a variety of sea island cotton shirts whose label is the latin motto is "Esse Quam Videri – "To Be, rather than To Seem". Its white oxford shirt marketed as the "CEO work shirt", will set you back by $275, but it will definitely make you feel cooler in the heat and perhaps even allow you to wear not just your heart on your sleeve but a couple of fair maidens.

Sea Island cotton is one of the most valuable and costly cotton varieties. It is known for its silky feel, luster and long 1 ¾ inch staple. The Cost of combed sliver is $25/ 8 oz. It is light, airy, silky, with a feel of a combination of silk and rabbit angora.

Sea Island cotton or West Indische katoen, belongs to the botanical family "malvaceae" (mallow family). It is a tropical perennial plant with yellow flowers and black seeds. It contains the chemical compound Gossypol, which confers insect resistance to the plant. Gossypol also has anti-fungal - and anti-tumor properties. It is also used as an anti-fertility drug. Its small seeds produce an edible oil. The husk is used to feed cattle. In traditional medicine, the leaves are used in the treatment against hypertension, delayed - and irregular menstruation.

Sea Islands are a chain of more than 100 low laying islands off the Atlantic coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Florida. The Spanish explored them and were the first to inhabit the islands, setting up missions and garrisons in the 16th century. They were the first important cotton-growing area in North America. In the early 19th century, St.Helena and Port Royal Island became the seats of large plantations that grew long-staple, Sea-Island cotton. The Civil War and the distribution of land by the U.S. federal government to newly freed slaves after the war destroyed the wealth of the planters. By 1920, the arrival of the boll weevil paved the way to a diversified agriculture.


Cotton Staple Length

The term "staple" refers to fibre length. All cotton has a staple: American Pima cotton and Egyptian cotton is Extra-Long Staple (ELS) cotton; Indian and Pakistani local cotton varieties tend to be medium staple; "Upland" cottons of the U.S. tend to be classified as short to medium staple, which is an inch to an inch and three-sixteenths long.


USA- ELS Cotton - PIMA

Pima is an extra long staple, an inch and seven-sixteenths. Anything longer than an inch and three-eighths is considered ELS. Pima is named after the Indian tribe Pima, who were helping to raise the ELS cotton on the USDA pilot farm in Sacaton, Arizona.

Most of the ELS cotton coming from the USA is called PIMA. Brand names such as Ralph Lauren, Weathered Stone, Brooks Brothers, Linen ‘N Things, J.C.Penney, Lands’ End Home, are some of the names that use the brand name "Supima" Cotton, short for Superior PIMA produced by an association of PIMA growers.

Pima cottons have been grown in South-western U. S. since the early 1900’s. The First World War provided the initial boost for research and development. The U.S. Defence Department was looking for places to grow ELS "American-Egyptian" cottons. This variety was long fibered and very strong. At that time, ELS was used to make tire cords and high quality fabrics to cover the fuselage and wings of the new airplane technology miracle. The "Goodyear" Tyres Company in Arizona was founded to be close to the source of cotton production.

The end of the war and major changes in technology put a temporary halt to much of the U.S. research into ELS cottons. Later in 1950, Pima cotton got a boost as USDA and other cotton breeders produced an ELS cotton with superior fibre properties, lustre and silkiness and unusually high yield. The American ELS cotton was christened "Pima," in recognition of Pima Indians who were helping to raise ELS cotton on the USDA experimental farm in Sacaton, Arizona. There is now a variety called Superior Pima or "Supima". Pakistan is the largest world importer of PIMA cotton for its textile industry.

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