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ZURICH – Leading Swiss standards organisation, Oeko-Tex, has developed a new testing procedure to help companies in the global textile supply chain test their organic cotton products for GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The test will provide users with a molecular-level indicator of whether or not cotton products actually meet a fundamental definition of organic.

In a pioneering testing process, samples of cotton are analysed using RT-PCR (reverse transcription- polymerase chain reaction) technology, which can identify known genetically modified materials at a limit of 0.1 per cent. Test results clearly indicate whether these GMOs were detected or not. Oeko-Tex says that organic cotton products seeking its Standard 100 certification will be required to undergo GMO testing, while 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,” said Georg Dieners, Oeko-Tex general secretary. “The new GMO testing gives manufacturers and marketers confidence that their organic cotton products meet regulatory and consumer expectations with regards to GMOs as well as the independent, traceable documentation to prove it.”

About 70 per cent of cotton globally is genetically altered at the present time, examples being where some forms of cotton have been engineered to be herbicide-resistant or others have been infused with an insecticide to kill pests like boll weevils. However, many consumers are now placing a major value on the environmental, social, and product safety paybacks that they perceive organic cotton offers.

To qualify as organic and to be marketed as such, cotton must meet a comprehensive list of criteria governing the cultivation, processing, and segregation of the cotton. One major requirement is that the cotton plants cannot be genetically engineered.

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