Sunday, July 4, 2010

How Could Your Decision to Buy Organic Clothing Have Changed This Farmer's Life?

By Adrian Desbarats

In the village of Kot Samaba in the southern Punjab area of Pakistan, Ghulam Hussain is like any father. He has a wife, Khursheed and two doting children. Like any father, he works hard to provide for his family. To bring in enough money to purchase food and shelter and hopefully to provide something more for his children such as an education. Like any father, his desire is to keep his family safe, happy and fulfilled.

So when Kursheed became seriously ill with classic symptoms of severe pesticide poisoning the feeling of powerlessness must have been very profound. Her symptoms - profuse sweating, loss of color, diarrhea and shortness of breathe were symptoms Hussain had seen before and so he was acutely aware of what it meant.
But how could his wife have become exposed to pesticides? She did not work in the fields but rather remained home to care for their children? It wasn't until a Field Assistant of the Pakistan Agriculture Department visited Hussain that the answer became known.

For many days prior to her illness, Khursheed had been collecting cotton sticks from a nearby field that had already been harvested. This field had received multiple spraying of the pesticide Bifenthrin. The cotton sticks were soaked in the pesticide and as Khursheed handled the sticks, the pesticide entered her body through skin contact.

Taking this information to the landlord, Hussain hoped to get compensation. A very important undertaking given that rural workers in Pakistan do not enjoy the healthcare, medical care or insurance options that we take for granted. They are completely at the mercy of their landlords.

Unfortunately, the landlord refused to take any responsibility and Khursheed's condition worsened. Eventually, she developed pulmonary edema or liquid on the lungs. Not a good prognosis. Soon after, Hussain disappeared with his wife and children presumably in a desperate attempt to find medical assistance somewhere. And so, the father who took pride in his ability to keep his family safe and secure has had his life and that of his wife and children forever altered. And for what?

This is a tragic tale but only one of many that occur every day in the cotton fields of the Punjab and in other third world countries. Cotton farming is big business with third world countries such as China, Pakistan and, India providing over 50% of all global cotton demand. And the pesticides used to rid the crops of pests or defoliate the crops prior to harvest are big business too.

So the next time you pick up that $5 cotton shirt and wonder how the big box store can sell it so cheaply, you will have your answer. Workers like Hussain paid for it through their cheap labor with zero benefits and, through the use of pesticides designed to maximize crop production at the mercy of the workers and their families.

Every time we don conventional cotton clothing, we are literally helping to create tragic stories like Hussain's. I can see some logic in the argument that pesticides are needed to keep feeding the world. It is not a view I agree with, but I can see the argument. But where is the justification in the destruction of lives and habitat just to keep us in cheap fashion?

So I ask - do you want to make a difference? Do you want to be one of those who can wear their clothing with pride knowing that they are doing their part to effect positive change both in their life and the lives of others? Then join the growing sustainability movement and say yes to organic clothing. Do you want to learn more about organic clothing? Visit our blog here - Organic Clothing Blog.

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1 comment:

  1. This is so insightful! Next time I'm looking for something stylish, I'll keep this post in mind.