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GOTS Wins Civil Action in False Organic Claims Case

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The Global Organic Textile Standard doesn’t want consumers tricked into thinking they’re getting organic when they’re not.

In hopes of protecting the sanctity of its certification trademark and keeping consumers from being misled by false advertising, the voluntary global standards organization filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) documenting the inaccurate and widespread use of the term “organic” for textile goods.

“The lawsuit and FTC complaint should send a clear message to the textile sector that unauthorized and unsubstantiated claims that textile products are ‘organic’ or GOTS-certified will not be tolerated,” GOTS managing director Herbert Ladwig said. “To serve our certified operations and provide fair competition in the market for certified organic goods, we welcome market participants to notify both us and the FTC of any perceived misuses of the term organic or the GOTS logo.”

Just one week before the FTC filing, GOTS won a civil action in the U.S. District Court of Virginia against mattress companies, Serta Simmons Bedding, Delta Enterprises Corporation and Dreamwell, that were using the GOTS certification trademark on their products without permission. The companies were putting the GOTS marking on mattresses, particularly those for infants, but now each has a permanent injunction prohibiting unauthorized uses of the trademark.

GOTS is the global standard for all of what it calls post-harvest processing (spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing, manufacturing) of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber. The standard’s key provisions include a ban on using genetically modified organisms (GMOs), highly hazardous chemicals like formaldehyde, and child labor.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) released a Policy Memorandum in 2011 clarifying that only textile products in full compliance with the NOP regulations can be labeled NOP certified organic and don the USDA organic seal.

But since most of NOP’s allowed inputs don’t apply to textile processing, NOP pointed to GOTS as an alternate option.

“As a practical alternative, NOP’s policy memo explicitly confirms that textile products produced in accordance with GOTS, such as apparel, mattresses, or socks, may be sold as ‘organic’ in the U.S., without reference to NOP certification or the USDA organic seal,” GOTS said.

In its complaint, GOTS asked the FTC to acknowledge GOTS as a recognized globally applicable standard, refer to NOP’s policy on textiles and monitor and enforce use of the term “organic” on textiles that are not certified under either program.

“Such steps would significantly help prevent misleading organic claims and ensure consumer confidence in the term ‘organic,’” GOTS said.

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