Conventional silk processing, in comparison to organic, free range & cruelty free, can be hazardous to the environment and participate in unfair labor. In conventional farming, silk worms are bred in captivity and usually kept in cages. Pprocessing methods create a mixture of chemicals and synthetic substances which contribute to pollution from waste and emissions. However, some organic processes create a silk that is 100% natural, renewable, and cruelty free.
As always, it depends on who is producing the silk and where. The production of silk itself has a long history which you could read about here: http://www.silk-road.com/artl/silkhistory.shtml. As it was originally done, with silk worms, the environmental impact was relatively small, though the process did involve killing silkworms. However, a new method has been perfected in which the silkworms are not killed in the process: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/07/new_silk_produc.php. In regard to raising food for silk worms, preventing disease, and using chemicals to produce the silk to be woven, the process is only minorly environmentally harmful. For more information, you could read this article: http://www.trueup.net/2009/fabric-study/silk-week-about-silkworms/.
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