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NEW YORK – Independent testing suggests Xinjiang cotton is rife in global fashion supply chains, despite efforts by regulators to ban its use. Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of 822 samples tested contained evidence of Xinjiang cotton according to a report by Applied DNA sciences and Stratum Reservoir

156 out of 822 samples tested positive for Xinjiang cotton from February 2023 to March 2024.

“Xinjiang cotton is present in diverse and, perhaps more importantly, global supply chains, including apparel, footwear, and consumer products,” says the report. “This includes samples such as yarn, fabric, finished garments, and even cotton swabs.”

The report indicates that 57 per cent of samples testing positive for Xinjiang cotton have a claimed origin of the United States. Says the report: “This potentially misleading claim of origin is particularly noteworthy considering the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). It is concerning also for products claiming US origin and/or made in the US related to the Rules of Origin to determine if the products are eligible for duty free or reduced duties under the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) rules.”

The study found the US and Brazil were the most frequently claimed origins within Xinjiang-positive samples. The authors suggest the blending of origins, with its added layer of complexity, may make it difficult to clear investigations and produce evidence of traceability, origin, and testing of physical goods.

The Report’s findings suggest that even with the attention and legislation to eliminate the use of forced labour from cotton supply chains, much more can be done.

The authors call for increased awareness and use of US-based forensic technologies such as DNA tagging, genomic cotton PCR-based testing, and isotope origin testing.

“All these technologies and services are available here in the U.S. Therefore, companies or U.S. government agencies do not need to send samples overseas for testing,” the report states.

They also call for the development of more robust supply chain monitoring and enforcement measures to ensure compliance with regulations to prevent forced labour use and ethically questionable sourcing practices, particularly in regions like Xinjiang with well-documented human rights concerns.

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