Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cotton or food?

"Biofuels are currently being accused of starving the world of food, by taking over badly needed land and water. But the fact is, cotton deprives food growers of much more water and good farming land than biofuels.

If we weren't already doing it, and somebody today came up with the idea of taking over the world's fields to grow clothes, there'd be a huge stink. So is it time for a reassessment of cotton and other non-food crops?

The charge list against cotton is long. Cotton drained the Aral Sea in central Asia. I have stood on the former shoreline at Muynak in Uzbekistan and looked out across the 100 kilometres of desert you'd have to cross to find the sea. No water gets down the rivers that once topped up the inland sea, because it is also taken to irrigate fields of cotton to make clothes for sale in our high streets and shopping malls." (Thanks Rania)

Fred Pearce nails it as usual in the short article from the New Scientist environment blog. I can help thinking of the slavery associated with cotton, and of the fact that Egyptians grow high quality cotton for export, and that they import low quality cotton to clothe themselves. And that Syria uses the Euphrates water to grow cotton: 750,000 tons in 2007.

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