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New Guidelines Address Organic Cotton Seed

The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) has released the “Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines,” which provide the textile sector with a key tool for safeguarding the integrity of organic cotton at the seed level.

These guidelines aim to create a standardized industry approach for the production of non-genetically engineered (non-GM) seed marketed to organic cotton growers and ultimately improve the integrity of the entire organic cotton value chain from seed to shirt.

Led by OCA, these guidelines have been developed in consultation with sector experts and through field pilots at three Indian seed producers. They are now made available to producers of non-GM cottonseed who want to implement solid practices to monitor and prevent GMOs along their seed supply chain.

The guidelines are set to help the growing number of Indian organic smallholder farmers by increasing their access to non-GM seed and strengthening the integrity of organic cotton produced for brands and retailers.

OCA said the market demand for organic cotton is growing, which is why it is important to secure the availability of reliable non-GM seed, an essential requirement in organic farming. Organic regulations guarantee that organic producers take far-reaching steps to avoid GMO contamination from farmers to spinners and brands. However, in countries like India where GM cotton dominates the market, accidental GMO contamination at the seed level may incur, making it challenging to secure the basic characteristics of the seed required by organic farming regulations and jeopardizing the integrity of the broader organic cotton sector.

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Responding to this critical need of the sector, OCA, through its Seed and Innovation Program, is focused on improving non-GM cottonseed availability as an essential first step in working toward setting up organic cottonseed value chains. By developing the Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines, OCA wants to help seed producers monitor and prevent GMO presence in different contexts and countries, from early breeding stages up to the final production, processing and packaging of planting seed.

“Each Indian farm group has long been seeking its own remedy for one and the same challenge–procuring reliable non-GM seed for their farmers,” Vivek Rawal, CEO and director at bioRe India, said. “By strengthening and validating seed producers’ capacity to implement standard practices for preventing GMO presence in their cottonseed lots, OCA’s Seed Assurance Program significantly reduces the risk of GMO contamination in seed lots marketed to farm groups and limits the need for repeated GMO sampling and testing by farm groups.”

OCA’s program officer, Mathilde Tournebize, said the organization has already started rolling out the implementation of the guidelines in India, starting with Partech Seeds.

“By verifying Partech’s compliance to these guidelines using second-party verification audits at the end of 2021, they will be able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, while their clients will feel more confident to source reliable non-GM seed to grow their organic cotton with,” Tournebize said.

Partech Seeds has established a long-term partnership with OCA and is a leading partner invested in producing seed for the Indian organic cotton sector.

OCA is also rolling out the Non-GM Seed Assurance Program by partnering with seed producers and providing capacity building support on a need basis to implement these guidelines. OCA said it will hold an annual review of the framework to guarantee continuous improvement and the global implementation of these guidelines.

The OCA is a multi-stakeholder organization dedicated to organic cotton and committed to bringing integrity, supply security and measurable social and environmental impact to organic cotton. Since its establishment in 2016, with founding partners Laudes Foundation, H&M, Kering, Eileen Fisher, Textile Exchange, Tchibo, Inditex and C&A, OCA has been committed to convening the sector around a common agenda and using the platform’s collective investments to act as a catalyst for change.