The Ripple Effect of India’s Organic Cotton Scandal

india farm

With not only H&M and organic certifier EcoCert caught in an unprecedented organic cotton scandal, courtesy of “organic cotton” suppliers from India, retailers worldwide can’t help but brace for their own industry-altering aftermath.

According to Ecotextile News, Lothar Kruse, a director of the independent testing laboratory Impetus in Bremerhaven, Germany examined the cotton fabrics that came from Indian farms and claimed roughly “30% of the tested samples” contained genetically modified (GM) cotton.

The head of the Indian agricultural authority Apeda, Sanjay Dave, told the newspaper they were dealing with fraud on “a gigantic scale.”

Organic Exchange, an organization committed to expanding organic agriculture, is releasing figures any day regarding how much so-called organic cotton India has produced on an international level for retail.

Current figures provided by them include 61% of the total amount of organic cotton produced worldwide in 2008-2009 were from them, with some 107,000 tons of fiber out of the total 175,113 tons grown worldwide.

Ecotextile News also reports that “Indian authorities discovered the alleged fraud back in April 2009 and fines were imposed at that time on third party certification agencies EcoCert and Control Union.”

Rumors have been flying for some time in the sustainable textile industry halls that the Indian organic cotton sector has been suspect.

Wondering what’s wrong with genetically modifying organic cotton?

According to the Human Genome Project, the act of genetically modifying something like organic cotton has its own ripple effect from the potential environmental impacts of unintended transfer of trans genes through cross-pollination and unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), to the loss of flora and fauna biodiversity.

Cut to the chase: when we screw with nature, we screw ourselves.

So what kind of ripple effect will this new information have on the entire sustainable textile industry?

Aside from the fact that eco-haters will have a field day bashing sustainable industries striving to make progress, this presents a great (if painful) opportunity to thoroughly consider our supply chains.

When companies large and small can’t trust certifiers and government officials to ensure organic products are in fact organic, we in the eco-world have reached a breach of the worst sort.

From designers to retailers, from teachers to industry writers, we all will come to realize that trust in large corporations and organizations can still be a shaky commodity and one that will require even more stringent watch-dogging.

One can only hope this clamp down won’t add a larger price tag to an already inflated organic ticket.

Image: Le Xav

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