Organic Cotton Sold By Major Retailers
Made From Genetically Modified Cotton Seed
A battle is brewing over identifying clothing as being made of organic
cotton when it contains strains of genetically modified cotton seed.
Things got heated last week when the German edition of The Financial
Times newspaper reported
that clothing labeled as organic cotton and sold by
major retailers contained genetically modified cotton from India.
The exposé caused a stir within the industry, and several
companies and organizations mentioned in the article are now coming
forward and questioning the validity of the newspapers report.
Union, a cotton certification group that works with the Swedish
clothing company H&M one of the stores identified as
selling mislabeled apparel issued a statement arguing that
the data was skewed.
It was mentioned that 30 percent of the organic cotton
sold in Germany contains BT-seed cotton, the statement said,
referring to a common strain of cotton genetically modified to
resist insect damage. For us it is unclear which data was
used to come to this conclusion, and how the link with India was
made, the Control Union said.
H&M also issued a statement noting that it was aware that
an Indian regulatory authority had criticized the Control Union
last year for insufficient checks of farmers control
systems for seeds and sowing.
As a consequence of the criticism, the Control Union conducted
unannounced audits of all organic cotton farms that they certify
in India, the statement read.
None of the farms were found to use genetically modified seeds,
according to the retailer, and all farms took the appropriate
steps to ensure that genetically modified seeds were not used.
Union has since further strengthened their routines
and continue to be accredited by Indian regulators, the
Genetically modified cotton is used in India and the United States,
and there is always a chance that it will become mixed with organic
stocks, said LaRhea Pepper, director of Organic
Exchange, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting organic fibers.
(Both H&M and the Control Union are members of Organic Exchange.)
Such intermingling could happen at cotton gins or at the delinting
companies, Ms. Pepper said. Those are two potential
places where there may be contamination if the plants are not
cleaning out the machinery well.
She added the Organic Exchange is trying to improve the integrity
of the organic cotton trade. Weve been meeting with
key stakeholders in India, she said.
India is the worlds second largest producer of cotton,
The full story remains to be unraveled, but this is the second
time in the new year that H&M has been caught in an awkward
Earlier this month, The New
York Times reported that the H&M store on 34th Street
in Manhattan was discarding bags of unsold clothes all
slashed with a razor blade to make sure they would never be marketed
January 28, 2010