Perhaps you caught the story alleging H&M used genetically modified cotton from India in their certified organic products. The story was published in the German edition of the Financial Times last Friday. Via Ecotextile News:
The scale of the alleged fraud uncovered by the German edition of the Financial Times newspaper is shocking – if it’s accurate. Lothar Kruse, a director of the independent testing laboratory Impetus in Bremerhaven, who examined the cotton fabrics claimed around “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.”
According to LaRhea Pepper, OE Senior Director and one of the world’s organic cotton production experts, organic cotton production standards specifically prohibit the use of GMO material. When a crop is grown organically, it means that the farmer has followed all the principles and systems of organic farming. In some cases, a very small amount of contamination may occur due to factors outside of the farmer’s control such as cross-pollination from GMO crops that may be growing in other fields away from organic cotton. Organic cotton certifiers conduct tests on plant, seed or soil to ensure that any pesticide residues and/or GMO’s are below a fine “tolerance” level and do not indicate deliberate fraud or carelessness on the part of the farmer. If there is any contamination of GMO material in certified organic cotton, it would likely be the result of pollination from GMO cotton plants or contamination in the gins or mills where cotton products are produced.
H&M also denies the allegations.
No one really knows the truth of it but there have been long standing assertions in the sustainability community that there are many questionable suppliers. Call it supplier greenwashing or fraud but the output of what is purported to be organic cotton, far exceeds the quantity of organic cotton production. In the end, increasing your demands for transparency in your supply chain is the only possible remedy. The obvious sticking point is being able to verify your suppliers. If H&M’s sourcing section has been fooled, it is difficult for a small entrepreneur -lacking those considerable resources- to be certain one’s suppliers are organic. Hopefully this won’t cause a crisis of confidence amongst consumers.