DETECTING GMO – labelling solutions for organic cotton

by Beatriz Domenech

INNOVATION & LABORATORIES

14th July 2020

Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Holding Label Showing 100 Percent Organic Cotton
Today’s consumer demands ecological, environmentally friendly, organic or bio products, etc., and is aware of the need to care for the environment.

Nowadays this is not a trend but a consumer philosophy: sustainability is required of the product, as well as quality and safety.

In conventional cotton cultivation, genetically modified seeds (GMO) are often used to make the plant more resistant to pesticides or insects. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one whose DNA has been altered through genetic engineering. Genetic manipulation uses a variety of techniques to manage and modify genetic material in many ways: it may involve the deletion of a certain fragment of the genome, its modification, duplication or replacement by a fragment from another organism with the intention of endowing it with or depriving it of some trait that may be of interest.

In the face of all the problems associated with cotton cultivation, one line has come into its own: organic cotton. Organic cotton promotes alternative production methods which are more sustainable and respectful of the environment and people.

Consumer awareness has led to an increase in global demand for organic cotton, but even so, production accounts for less than 1% of the total cotton consumption so there is a lot of potential for improvement. Cultivation, processing and handling of organic cotton is more expensive compared to conventional cotton, which increases its cost. This is why it is necessary to ensure the origin of the cotton. To this end, there are a number of certifications concerned with cotton sustainability.

Why is it important that organic cotton is certified?

Organic cotton certified by independent entities guarantees the traceability of the production process. The GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) is one of the strictest for organic cotton. The standard requires that a textile product with GOTS label “organic grade” must contain at least 95% certified organic fibre while those bearing the label “Made with Organic Material” must contain no less than 70% certified organic fibre.

This certification includes requirements for organic fibre production, environmental requirements, minimum social criteria (employment practices) and certain technical quality parameters.

How can we determine the origin of the cotton?

In order to differentiate between “organic” and “genetically modified” cotton, the PCR technique is used.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique is a relatively simple and widely used technique in the field of molecular biology to amplify and detect DNA and RNA sequences. Real-time PCR uses a fluorescent marker that enables data collection as the PCR progresses.

Solutions provided by AITEX

AITEX can perform different tests to determine the origin of each type of cotton: tests to determine GMOs, control of harmful substances (pesticides, dyestuffs, etc.) and physical-mechanical quality controls; the Institute also has vast experience in advising companies on certification.

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