We are thrilled at American Canvas to have manufactures working with us to raise awareness of the inhumane practices that go into the "cute" clothes we put on our backs!

"Do you know where your cotton comes from?" If you knew what you are wearing, you might be ashamed

What Continental® CAN do, is to guarantee that the cotton we use does not come from Uzbekistan. (Continental® uses Turkish & Egyptian cotton.)
substantiate this, I am instigating what will be a transparent audit of
our conventional cotton supply chain, similar to the supply chain audit
in place for our organic cotton, this will be published before
September 3rd 2007. Once completed, any new garments will be
re-labelled to include the origin of the cotton fibres.
that guaranteed, you can now sleep a little better at night, however,
if you wish to learn more, read on... but I warn you, it does not make
happy reading if you are in any way involved in purchasing or
re-selling cotton apparel...

is the third largest cotton exporter in the world. About one in four of
all cotton garments sold in the UK contain a percentage of Uzbek cotton
fibres. The first problem is that the Uzbek regime is responsible for torture, slave labour and a continuing environmental disaster on an unimaginable scale - all in the name of cotton production.
The second problem is that they don't tell you on the clothing labels
in stores where the cotton fibres came from, just where the garment was
manufactured. The truth about the Uzbek cotton industry makes horrific
reading, and I only reproduce here a fraction of what I have read. I do
this, not to be sensationalist, but because we can actually do
something about this, by raising awareness in our industry, and
encouraging other manufacturers to follow suit or lose their reputation
- and ultimately lose sales. In the near future, in the current
climate, unethical business practises will simply not be profitable.
Don't take my word for it. What follows is abreviated passages from the executive summary from the International Crisis Group report on Central Asian cotton of March 2005:
The Uzbek cotton industry
is a disastrous aberration created by Soviet central planning. Over 80%
of the loss of water from the Aral Sea is due to irrigation for the
Uzbek cotton industry, so it is responsible for one of the World’s
greatest environmental disasters. On most agricultural land in
Uzbekistan, cotton has been grown as a monoculture for fifty years,
with no rotation. This of course exhausts the soil and encourages
pests. As a result the cotton industry employs massive quantities of
pesticide and fertiliser. As a result it is not just that the Aral Sea
is disappearing, but that and fertilisers, with no rotation.the whole
area of the former sea suffers appalling pollution, reflected in
appalling levels of disease.

farm workers are tied to the farm. They need a propusk (visa) to move
away – which they won’t get. The state farm worker normally gets two
dollars a month. Their living and nutritional standards would improve
greatly if, rather than grow cotton, they had a little area to grow
subsistence crops.
There are no independent research
institutes allowed in Uzbekistan. In fact the proportion of the
population enslaved on state cotton farms is closer to 60% than 40%.
cotton industry in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan contributes
to political repression, economic stagnation, widespread poverty and
environmental degradation. The economics of Central Asian cotton are
simple and exploitative. Millions of the rural poor work for little or
no reward growing and harvesting the crop. The considerable profits go
either to the state or small elites with powerful political ties.
Forced and child labour and other abuses are common.
This system
is only sustainable under conditions of political repression, which can
be used to mobilise workers at less than market cost. Uzbekistan and
Turkmenistan are among the world's most repressive states, with no free
elections. Opposition activists and human rights defenders are subject
to persecution. The lack of a free media allows many abuses to go
unreported. Unelected local governments are usually complicit in
abuses, since they have little or no accountability to the population.
Cotton producers have an interest in continuing these corrupt and
non-democratic regimes.

The industry relies on cheap labour.
Schoolchildren are still regularly required to spend up to two months
in the cotton fields in Uzbekistan. Despite official denials, child
labour is still in use in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Students in all
three countries must miss their classes to pick cotton. Little
attention is paid to the conditions in which children and students
work. Every year some fall ill or die.
Photos showing the condition of state-forced child labour in
the Uzbek cotton fields. These are not sensationalist; they are very
much the everyday conditions in which hundreds of thousands of Uzbek
children are forced to live for months. (click)

Women do much of the hard manual labour in cotton fields, and reap
almost none of the benefits. Cash wages are minimal, and often paid
late or not at all. In most cotton-producing areas, growers are among
the poorest elements in society.

The environmental
costs of the monoculture have been devastating. The depletion of the
Aral Sea is the result of intensive irrigation to fuel cotton
production. The region around the sea has appalling public health and
ecological problems. Even further upstream, increased salinisation and
desertification of land have a major impact on the environment.
Disputes over water usage cause tension among Central Asian states.

Reforming the cotton sector is not easy. Central Asian cotton is traded
internationally by major European and U.S. corporations; its production
is financed by Western banks, and the final product ends up in
well-known clothes outlets in Western countries. But neither the
international cotton trading companies nor the clothing manufacturers
pay much attention to the conditions in which the cotton is produced.
Nor have international organisations or IFIs done much to address the
abuses. U.S. and EU subsidy regimes for their own farmers make
long-term change more difficult by depressing world prices.
years ago Craig Murray, our British ambassador to Uzbekistan, had a
sense-of-humour failure about Britain condoning torture there. His
fate? The Foreign Office fired him. Labour or Conservative? It doesn't
really matter does it, they are all the same.
I have only touched upon the subject here, you can read more about this subject at -
To effect immediate change,
you should demand that your apparel manufacturer state on their garment
labels where their cotton comes from, and that it does not come from
Uzbekistan. With the vast volume of T-shirts bought and sold, the
message will quickly spread, and High Street retail will follow.

Why am I doing this? As a large user of cotton, and with our
influential position in the T-shirt industry, Continental Clothing has
an opportunity, if not even a responsibility, to raise awareness and
promote consumer action on issues where we feel strongly - such as the
state orchestrated child slavery in Uzbekistan. The wonderful thing is
that it costs us nothing, and may switch cause consumers to question
the garments they buy and so switch them on to cotton garments which
guarantee that certain positive social and environmental conditions are
met - such as Continental garments. This is often the way with ethical
and environmental choices, initially they appear expensive and
difficult, until you realise they can be sustainable choices for a
longer term and more profitable future. So yes, we are doing this
because we can, and also for personal gain. If you follow the same
formula, you may benefit in exactly the same way

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

EJF says this use of child labour violates international laws and conventions to which many governments of cotton-producing countries are signatories.

The practice violates the UN convention on the rights of a child. That convention provides that children have a right "to be protected from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous, or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development."

"As forced labour on the cotton harvest prevents children from attending school oftentimes for over a third of the academic year, it clearly violates the children's right to an education. Work on the harvest and exposure to pesticides and defoliants is also demonstrably detrimental to children's health," Cassandra Cavanaugh, who was senior researcher for Human Rights Watch from 1998 to 2001 in central Asia told IPS.

"The simple fact is that cheap clothing and other cotton items in the developed world are being subsidised by child labourers in poor cotton producing countries," Williams said. "We believe that consumers do have a choice and that every time they spend their money they are effectively casting a vote for the way in which they want the world to look -- they can opt to choose cotton products made without use of child labour or in abusive conditions, and should send this clear message to retailers and manufacturers."

Atayeva agrees that in order to break the existing system it is necessary to deprive those who control cotton export of their unfair profits.

"Under the circumstances, only international boycott of Uzbek cotton can achieve that goal. The boycott will force the Uzbek government to repeal child labour and provide farmers with real economic freedom. The cotton sector in Uzbekistan can still be profitable without exploitation of children and forced labour."