Organic wool is only partly about farming. In organic husbandry the sheep are kept without using commonly used chemicals, including preventative treatment against parasites or diseases. Mulesing is prohibited in organic sheep farming. Organic wool is also about the processing of the wool. The GOTS-certification implies that only eco-friendly chemicals (e.g. dyes) are used throughout the process.
The term organic wool refers first and foremost to farming, to the way the sheep are reared. Organic farming aims for a healthier system that is in balance with nature. This means that the sheep are not treated with insecticides and pesticides, that they have access to spacious pastures that are also maintained organically, and that they are not fed with genetically modified food.
According to the British Organic Soil Association, the main difference with conventional farming is that organic sheep farming does not involve the preventive use of antibiotics, something that is common in conventional farming. For example, sheep are dewormed very regularly (in certain circumstances every four to six weeks) even if they do not have worms.
In organic farming, an attempt is made to control disease with a holistic approach, for example, by having the sheep graze in rotation with cattle. This makes different types of grass available to both cattle and sheep, resulting in a more varied diet and healthier, less disease-prone animals.
Organic wool is not only about sheep farming, but also about the processing of wool. Among other things, attention is paid to the means used to wash the raw wool and to protect it from insects such as moths.
For GOTS certification, attention must also be paid to matters that apply to the processing of other materials, such as the use of certain chemicals in the dying or washing of wool, for example. The social clauses in the GOTS standard also apply to the wool-processing companies, of course.
The market share of organic wool is small. In 2021, about 1 percent of the annually produced textile fibres would be wool. Of the total wool production, about 1.5 per cent is organic. By comparison, according to the same data, 54.4 per cent of the textile fibres produced would be polyester.