In honor of May Day and workers everywhere, I’d like to suggest that you check where your cotton comes from. Like extracting oil which has different energy requirements depending on where its found, there’s a lot of variation in cotton depending on where its grown. And cotton from Uzbekistan is not a good choice.
Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world, but the human rights issues (putting aside the environmental issues for the time being) associated with Uzbek cotton puts it at the bottom of the heap.
According to the Environmental Justice Foundation:
Instead of using machines to harvest cotton, as is done in other major cotton exporting countries, Uzbekistan’s government uses children. Every autumn state officials shut down schools, and send students, together with their teachers, to the cotton fields. Tens of thousands of children, some as young as seven, are forced to undertake weeks of arduous labour for little or no financial reward. Headmasters are issued with cotton quotas and made to ensure that students pick the required daily amount. Children who fail to pick their target of cotton are reportedly punished with detentions and told that their grades will suffer. Those who refuse to take part can face academic expulsion.”
And if you have happy memories of picking cotton for your grandparents to help bring the crop in, read the letter from Brian Schroeter (whose wife was one of those Uzbek kids forced to pick cotton) published in the Delta Farm Press http://deltafarmpress.com/news/uzbek-cotton-1217/ In this letter, Brian explains how the situation is such a human rights disaster.
As consumers, ask where your cotton comes from. Ignorance on the part of the seller, as always, is no excuse. Tell your retailer that you will not buy it if there is no credible information about where the cotton is produced. Seek out fair trade cotton.