Co­tonea, Ger­many raises con­cern…: GMO cot­ton in GOTS la­belled prod­ucts orig­i­nat­ing from In­dia…

Or­ganic Cot­ton is not ex­pected to con­tain any ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied con­tent. The EU regulation states that GMOs and prod­ucts pro­duced from or by GMOs are in­com­pat­i­ble with the con­cept of or­ganic pro­duc­tion and con­sumers’ per­cep­tion of or­ganic prod­ucts. How

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Re­cently, Tex­tile man­u­fac­turer Elmer & Zweifel GmbH & Co.KG, the...

Re­cently, Tex­tile man­u­fac­turer Elmer & Zweifel GmbH & Co.KG, the Ger­man owner of the Co­tonea or­ganic cot­ton brand called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Global Or­ganic Tex­tile Stan­dard (GOTS) claim­ing that many GOTS la­belled prod­ucts orig­i­nat­ing from In­dia are ac­tu­ally pro­duced from ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied (GMO) cot­ton. Co­tonea which closely mon­i­tors the en­tire pro­duc­tion process from cul­ti­va­tion on the cot­ton fields to spin­ning, weav­ing, re­fin­ing and tai­lor­ing un­til the prod­uct reaches the shops, notes that GMO cot­ton in In­dia now ac­counts for as much as 90 per cent of the to­tal pro­duc­tion and soon there will be no GMO-free cot­ton avail­able in In­dia as GMO cot­ton plan­ta­tions con­tinue to ex­pand into nearby or­gan­i­cally grown agri­cul­tural land. Ap­parel On­line takes a look at the ac­tiv­i­ties of GOTS to en­sure au­then­tic­ity of the nearly 800 GOTS cer­ti­fied com­pa­nies in In­dia cover­ing the en­tire sup­ply chain from cot­ton to the fi­nal prod­uct.

The claims be­ing made by Co­tonea are not new. Al­most 7 years ago, there were sim­i­lar re­ports claim­ing that top brands like C&A, H&M and Tchibo have been un­know­ingly sell­ing gar­ments la­belled as or­ganic, which were ac­tu­ally con­tam­i­nated with ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied cot­ton. In the re­cent de­vel­op­ment, Co­tonea briefs that GOTS-cer­ti­fied or­ganic cot­ton con­tains gene-ma­nip­u­lated or­gan­isms (GMO), which are against the con­cept of or­ganic, as guide­lines pro­hibit this. An of­fi­cial press re­lease by the com­pany gives ref­er­ence to a re­search con­ducted in In­dia which has had GOTScer­ti­fied or­ganic cot­ton thread tested. In its re­sult, the Ger­man lab­o­ra­tory de­tected high amounts of GMO con­tam­i­na­tion.

How­ever, this very method of test­ing has been opposed by a GOTS spokes­woman, who states, “GMO can only be de­tected in raw cot­ton, not in cot­ton thread”. The brand counter claims that this state­ment is true as long as only cheap, fast tests are con­ducted. If one re­ally wants to get to the bot­tom of the mat­ter and if more money is spent on re­li­able tests, this state­ment will be proved to be false. So far GOTS (Global Or­ganic Tex­tile Stan­dard) has not ac­tively fol­lowed upon these ac­cu­sa­tions, but rather con­tests the test­ing process.

GOTS stands by the per­spec­tive that it has worked on sim­i­lar con­cerns raised by few other brands in the re­cent past, and it be­lieves that the pri­mary prob­lem is cen­tred around the re­li­a­bil­ity of the test re­sults, as there are no es­tab­lished ISO/ ASTM/ DIN/ BIS test meth­ods for ex­tract­ing DNA from pro­cessed textiles. “Dif­fer­ent lab­o­ra­to­ries and ex­perts in the world have made con­tra­dict­ing claims on the pos­si­bil­i­ties in this field. GOTS also con­ducted a Round Robin test with lim­ited sam­ples, where 6 out of 8 labs gave in­cor­rect re­sults on qual­i­ta­tive screen­ing

of raw fi­bre (with­out seeds) and none of the labs could give cor­rect re­sults for quan­tifi­ca­tion of the GMO con­tent,” rea­sons Sumit Gupta, Deputy Direc­tor, Stan­dards De­vel­op­ment & Qual­ity As­sur­ance, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in In­dia and Bangladesh, GOTS.

With an en­deav­our to col­lect more re­li­able data in this par­tic­u­lar field, GOTS is now plan­ning to con­duct a larger test­ing pro­ject. It also sug­gests that a for­mal­ized test method needs to be devel­oped for test­ing GM mat­ter in cot­ton fi­bre, yarn, fab­ric so that such a method is made widely avail­able for adop­tion and use by suit­ably qual­i­fied lab­o­ra­to­ries and the in­dus­try.

As the world’s lead­ing stan­dard for pro­cess­ing of or­ganic fi­bres, GOTS claims to be fully com­mit­ted to en­sure cred­i­bil­ity of or­ganic claims at ev­ery pro­cess­ing step. Fur­ther­more, it is hav­ing de­tailed dis­cus­sions with like-minded or­ga­ni­za­tions, such as Tex­tile Ex­change to de­velop a com­mon strat­egy to ad­dress pos­si­ble GM con­tam­i­na­tion in the or­ganic cot­ton chain. “GOTS is ac­tively en­gaged with sev­eral brands and re­tail­ers to ad­dress this is­sue in a pos­i­tive man­ner so that the in­dus­try and con­sumers are both ap­pro­pri­ately in­formed of the prod­ucts they pur­chase and are also safe­guarded from claims that can­not be ver­i­fied,” says Rahul Bha­jekar, Direc­tor, Stan­dards De­vel­op­ment & Qual­ity As­sur­ance, GOTS.

In­dian com­pa­nies are not cor­rupt due to hard­ship; but lack of aware­ness plays a larger role. As or­ganic cot­ton is up to 15% more ex­pen­sive, In­dian traders pre­fer to buy con­ven­tional cot­ton and ob­tain the or­ganic cer­tifi­cate for it later.

A re­port of Soil As­so­ci­a­tion, UK says that or­ganic cot­ton is re­plac­ing GM cot­ton pro­duc­tion in In­dia. Non-GM and or­ganic pro­duc­tion is now in a pos­i­tive sit­u­a­tion, of­fer­ing lower pro­duc­tion costs and sup­port­ing health­ier agri­cul­tural, en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial out­comes

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