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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8 thoughts on “The Ripple Effect of India’s Organic Cotton Scandal

  1. Pingback: サプライチェーンの開示がマーケティングになる3つの理由【ヨーロッパのエシカルファッション#03】 | EFJEthical Fashion Japan

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  3. Thanks for the great reporting Amy! Ultimately, good will come of this. The time has come to shift from supply chains to value chains. Systemic approaches are used in value chains. These are needed to close loops. Looking forward to greater transparency and an understanding of the true cost of things on a broad scale.

  4. Pingback: H&M fashions labeled organic cotton could be made of GM cotton | green LA girl

  5. Misleading and mislabeling is bound to happen any time money is at stake, but Amy is right on: we must remain hyper vigilant, just as with fur labeling and the problem with real fur of tortured animals disguised as fake fur to sell to consumers. Hate to be cynical but if the government has approved anything, you should be suspicious and find out for yourself. The worst crooks out there are those hired to protect us.

  6. Eco labeling gets another black eye and marketing green products becomes even more difficult. The Green Cynics will again gloat on this news as the industry cannot credibly and reliably support claims of sustainability. As a consumer awash in a world of greenwashing how can I believe H&M or any other world retailer about their green product claims? And why should I as a retailer with a reputation to uphold decide to market green product lines if eco labeling is unreliable? I wonder which retailer will pull their Eco Collections by fear of the next “Organic Cotton” scandal or simply cancel their orders for their Spring Green Product line. Our job as a green marketers should be to communicate effectively sustainability through eco products …with the help of trustworthy eco labels.


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