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Resource Management

Cotton programs working to improve the sustainability of cotton production

There are several cotton programs in the world working to create awareness about the use of chemicals and about optimal use other inputs, including energy and irrigation water. The BetterCotton Initiative ( ) is one of the array of programs. Leading apparel brands are part of this 6 year program to help transform the cotton market and make sustainable cotton a commercially viable commodity.

The BCI aims to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector's future. The BCI plans to initiate global change in the mass market, with long-term benefits for the environment, farmers and other people dependent on cotton for their livelihood. The BCI's philosophy is to develop a market for a new mainstream commodity: ‘Better Cotton' and thereby transform the cotton commodity to bring long-term benefits for the environment, farmers and other people dependent on cotton for their livelihood.  It is intended also to ensure that water use is optimized (both irrigated and rain-fed) and obtained legally without adversely affecting groundwater or water bodies. Minimum tillage of soil and the use of cover and rotation crops will also be addressed. The BCI has a target to produce 300,000 tons of cotton by 2012.

No certification or label will be required and the cotton will not sell at a premium to conventional cotton. Unlike organic cotton, the BCI allows the minimal use of pesticides and biotech cottons can be grown and BCI will ensure they are used safely and responsibly. The general assumption is that the market for organic cotton will remain very small and there is a need for initiatives that will lower the impact of conventional cotton production. 

The BCI charter was developed through a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach involving global buyers of cotton products to grow the demand for larger amounts of ‘better cotton‘. These components will complete a Better Cotton System that BCI will start implementing in the 2010 growing season. Cotton projects in India, Pakistan, West Africa, and Brazil are part of the current program. Key dates and goals:

2009 - Better Cotton Production Principles and Minimum Production Criteria Agreed

2010 - First Better Cotton harvest (Oct 2010 onwards)

2012 - Full evaluation of the Better Cotton System and results

2015 -- Production of one million metric tons of BCI Cotton -- BCI has an objective of accounting for 300,000 t of cotton production by 2012 and expand its membership to include firms representing 1,000,000 t of retail level cotton consumption by 2015.

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