GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard, through its own investigation, has obtained substantial documentary evidence confirming reports about systematic fraud abusing the Indian government certification system of organic cotton production.
In the course of surveillance audits by GOTS accreditation body IOAS–a regular part of the GOTS quality assurance–attended by GOTS experts, they detected fake Raw Cotton Transaction Certificates (TCs). These TCs had been created by alleged fraudsters using APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of the Indian Government) templates with fake QR, or quick response, codes that led to a cloned APEDA website to pretend the TCs were authentic.
GOTS said it has assured knowledge of 20,000 metric tons of fake material.
GOTS accepts raw organic cotton if it is certified to any of the IFOAM Family of Standards. In India, the nodal agency to certify organic raw cotton for export is APEDA. Their system is similar to GOTS’, where TCs are issued by their Certification Bodies (CBs) and carry information about certified produce, including volume, transport details, and buyer and seller information.
GOTS has instructed its approved CBs to cancel all upstream TCs issued based on wrongly issued TCs in order to prevent affected goods being sold with GOTS labels. A Certification Ban on 11 companies was imposed and the contract with one approved CB was terminated.
GOTS has submitted all facts to APEDA urging investigation, criminal prosecution and improvement. All GOTS certified organizations have been informed on the matter and are being provided guidance accordingly.
Being a processing standard and so having so far relied on national law based and governmentally supervised organic cotton production, GOTS has also introduced its own measures to prevent against such fraud. Going forward, all incoming TCs for organic raw material into its supply chain will be checked by GOTS for authenticity and credibility. A system for permanent data collection for raw material entering the GOTS supply chain and checks and reviews of CBs is being developed.
GOTS said it strongly believes that while these steps are strict, they are inevitable and will in the long run strengthen the credibility of organic fiber production and GOTS.
GOTS is the stringent voluntary global standard for the entire post-harvest processing, including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing, of apparel and home textiles made with certified organic fiber such as organic cotton and organic wool, and includes environmental and social criteria. Key provisions include a ban on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), highly hazardous chemicals such as azo dyes and formaldehyde, and child labor, while requiring strong social compliance management systems and strict waste water treatment practices.
According to a recent Textile Exchange report, India produces around 51 percent of the world’s organic cotton.
GOTS was developed by the Organic Trade Association in the U.S., the Japan Organic Cotton Association, the International Association Natural Textile Industry of Germany, and the U.-K-based Soil Association, to define globally recognized requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles, from field to finished product. GOTS is a non-profit, self-financed organization.