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Oeko-Tex Launches Organic Cotton Testing Technology

New testing from Oeko-Tex will help companies throughout the global supply chain more easily test their organic cotton products for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a molecular-level indicator of whether cotton products actually meet a fundamental definition of organic.

Organic cotton products seeking Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex certification will be required to undergo GMO testing. Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex is a worldwide independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used. The tests for harmful substances cover legally banned and controlled substances, chemicals known to be harmful to the health, but not yet legally controlled and parameters for health protection.

GMO testing is optional for other products. Currently, the GMO testing technology is limited to cotton.

“We learned in our ‘The Key To Confidence’ study that consumers who buy eco-friendly clothing and home textiles are likely to verify claims,” Georg Dieners, Oeko-Tex general secretary, said. “The new GMO testing gives manufacturers and marketers confidence that their organic cotton products meet regulatory and consumer expectations with regard to GMOs, as well as the independent, traceable documentation to prove it.”

With the new test, samples are analyzed using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technology that can identify known genetically modified materials at a limit of 0.1%, and Oeko-Tex said test results clearly indicate whether these GMOs are detected.

The popularity of organic cotton has grown substantially in recent years as have consumers’ concerns about the environment and harmful substances in the products they buy. As a result, this has increased the purchasing of organic textiles and with it that extra investment, an expectation that the organic products they buy are genuine and verifiable.

In 2015-2016, about 107,980 metric tons of organic cotton were grown in 18 countries around the world, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Today, roughly 70 percent of cotton globally is genetically altered, according to Oeko-Tex. Some forms of cotton have been engineered to be herbicide-resistant, while others have been infused with an insecticide to kill pests like boll weevils. These cotton DNA modifications have proponents, but producers and consumers of organic cotton reject them and place greater value on the environmental, social and product safety paybacks that they perceive organic cotton offers, Oeko-Tex added.