Skip to main content

Organic Proof: Hohenstein Provides Clear Answers with GMO Screening for Cotton

When claiming a textile product is organic, and by extension free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), customers expect independent verification and traceability. Following years of research and development, testing is now not only possible and available—it’s required.

Certified organic cotton (of which one of the qualifications is being non-GMO) is grown on 356,131 hectares (ha) worldwide with 44,394 in transition—accounting for just .7 percent of total global cotton production (Textile Exchange, 2019). This can make it expensive and difficult to obtain. Higher prices, however, can only be justified with independent proof.

Genetically modified cotton seeds were introduced in 1996 with the intention to grow higher yields of herbicide and insect-resistant plants. With concerns about the use of GMO cotton on health and the environment, consumer demand for organic cotton is growing. It has been easy to find genetically modified cotton products labelled with organic claims that are based solely on paperwork, but not backed by testing or based on random seed sampling alone. Proof of non-GMO cotton is, however, available with qualified laboratory testing.

Hohenstein has led the industry’s research for nearly 10 years and will be among the first labs accredited to test cotton seeds for GMOs according to the new International Organization for Standardization (ISO) International Workshop Agreement (IWA) protocol forming the basis of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Version 6.0, set for release in April 2020.

Related Stories

In addition to testing the seeds for the new GOTS standard, the Hohenstein method uniquely enables the testing of products from any point in the supply chain, from raw cotton and yarns to fabrics and end products. For heavily processed cotton where extraction of genetic material (DNA) is not possible, the cotton processing must be retraced to test the raw materials.

Hohenstein’s molecular-biological detection system (DNA testing) provides a clear answer as to whether the product contains GMOs or not. Manufacturers, brands, certifiers and consumer protection organizations use the results for confidence in sourcing, traceability, product identification, claim verification, quality control and protection against piracy.

Hohenstein’s GMO cotton testing methods involve two steps:

  • First, the sample is crushed and cotton fibers are mechanically and enzymatically extracted. The DNA is then separated from the fibers and purified through a multi-stage process.
  • If the DNA contains a specific target sequence (gene marker), genetic modification is indicated and molecular biological evidence is obtained. Control reactions serve to verify unaltered cotton DNA and exclude false-negative results.

For both GMO-testing methods, Hohenstein has been accredited according to ISO 17025 and can also provide GMO-testing for STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® certification.

You can learn more about Hohenstein’s GMO testing methods at Hohenstein.US/GMO.