100% Organic Cotton Fabrics
For home sewers, businesses, retailers, and anyone who gives a scrap!
The More Things Change. . .
When I took the exam to get my CBEST back in the early 90's the essay topic I had to write about was "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Last night I watched the Academy Award winning 1982 movie Gandhi. In it, Gandhi's wife, Kasturba Gandhi states:
"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness."
Wow. More than 30 years after the movie and perhaps 100 years after the words were uttered and that still rings true. When Kasturba said it, she was referring to the British landowners who were pushing the cotton farmers into debt. The British left India and the chemical (and seed) companies moved in.
Today, it is estimated that an Indian cotton farmer commits suicide every 8 hours. Here's a 5 minute video that explains the situation in more detail. A longer movie worth watching is Bitter Seeds.
Gandhi spoke to the humanity in us all. . . I wonder what it will take to hear the message this time around ? Are we destine to keep exploiting people and planet or will we eventually wake up to the reality that we are all much more deeply connected than we realize?
I must say that I feel really happy that Harmony Art supports organic (non-gmo seed) cotton farmers in India. It makes me feel connected to this bigger story we are all writing together. Individually we may feel insignificant but together we are mighty. Gandhi taught us that too.
Connecting like-minded people
Years ago I spoke at the University of California, Davis to Ann Savageau's design classes. It was from that visit that I met my soon-to-be intern extraordinaire Carol Shu. Ann and I have stayed in touch and when she told me about her B.A.G. project last year, you know I was excited about it and wanted to support its goal to be truly global. I put Ann in touch with the founder of Conserve India, Anita.
This week I received this email from Ann:
As you know, I just returned from a fabulous two week stay in Delhi, and I credit you for introducing me to Anita and catalyzing this wonderful exchange!
The living conditions of the rag pickers are appalling: many of them belong to the Dalit, or Untouchable, caste. Anita says they are often sexually assaulted and beaten up. They have no schools or health care, and Conserve India provides both of those for about 300 employees. We visited the school and brought gifts for the children, such as soccer balls, jump ropes, toothbrushes, pencils, crayons, etc.
Our newly graduated fashion design majors, Christina Johnson and Jenna Chen will work as interns for C.I. for the next six months. It is a very exciting and a unique opportunity for them, because they will learn many aspects of the business (designing, marketing, merchandising, and pricing, to name a few). No American company of the same size would offer new graduates as much opportunity or responsibility.
I have attached a photo of us in our Indian garb, in an old bazaar in Delhi. Thank you so much for introducing me to Anita! By the way, Carol Shu will begin grad school with us in the fall, and we are so happy to have her back.
What fun to see connections blossom and grow! It is really wonderful to feel like I am a small part of a group of thoughtful committed citizens who are indeed changing the world.
First up is a video essay about cotton farming in India produced by Greenpeace. The information isn't new, but the images are beautiful and if you aren't aware of the plight of India's cotton farmers this is a quick and easy tutorial. Enjoy.
If you are like me, the oil spill in the Gulf is weighing heavy on your head and heart. I truly believe we haven't even begun to realize the long term effects of this disaster. This video parody falls into the category of: sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.
Also, If you haven't yet heard about how to donate hair and fur to the clean up effort, here's a link to the official Matter of Trust site. Since videos are the theme today, here's a link to a video explaining Matter of Trust's work.
As a follow up to yesterday's post, this article (with help from the non- profit Organic Exchange) hits the nail on the head and clears up some of the misinformation being spread. Here is the the last paragraph from the article:
"Ultimately the problem comes down to one of intent. The brands and retailers that are leading the way in ensuring the minimization of environmental impact of their sourcing programmes should not be censured if there is some degree of accidental contamination in their product. The beneficial impact of organic farming techniques still applies. Organic farming brings many social and environmental benefits; eliminating the use of harmful and toxic chemicals, reducing the cycles of debt that farmers, particularly marginalized ones in countries such as India, find themselves in, and contributing to healthy ecosystems that benefit farmers and their communities. While GMO contamination is a serious issue that must be addressed, it is important that the majority of farmers who are operating honestly continue to receive support and encouragement."
Well said. In case you are wondering, the picture is of a huge pile of cotton seeds taken while we were on the Sustainable Cotton Project farm tour in October of 2005.
GM-Oh NO, take 2
You may have read some of the news reports about H & M organic cotton from India being found to contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). I find this both disturbing and heartening. Disturbing because organic cotton seeds are NOT allowed to have GMOs -- my personal opposition to GMOs is part of the reason that I have embraced organics (in food and fiber) so vehemently. For a great in depth post on GMOs visit our friends at Oecotextiles.
So why am I am encouraged by this disturbing report? Well, it means there are checks and balances and that they are working. The publicity of this discovery will no doubt serve to ensure there is better care in avoiding GMO seeds in the future. GMO drift is indeed real and also a serious threat to all organic crops. I hope this brings the attention needed to the problem so that moving forward we can ensure "organic" indeed means GMO free!
Rest assured, we are most certainly looking into our own "organic" fiber from India. According to my manufacturing partner:
"As far as we can see, there isn't any direct link to the farms they were buying from and where our production is-as you know I've gone through the farms where our fiber comes from and there is very meticulous paperwork and controls. However, I do understand that with GM/non-GM crops, tracking can be difficult."
I do want to point out that although a very important part of the organic story, GMOs are in no way the end of the story! Please visit our conventional vs organic page which shows many of the other improvements that organic fabric production address. I am hopeful this issue will help ensure better transparency and record keeping in India and all over the globe moving forward. Stay tuned... the journey (albeit bumpy sometimes) continues.
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.