Fake cotton? Not exactly, but India’s organic cotton industry has been raising eyebrows over accusations that its crops are being grown from genetically modified (GMO) seeds.
The scandal was revealed this week in a story by Ecouterre, (‘H&M, Other Brands Guilty of “Organic Cotton Fraud”?’), which based its allegations on a January 22 piece in the German edition of the Financial Times. The questionable material was found during laboratory tests of clothing from a handful of European fashion retailers including global fast fashion giant H&M. It’s reported that as much as 30 percent of the samples tested contained GMO cotton.
India presently produces over 50 percent of the world’s supply of organic cotton, according to sources, and exported approximately 107,000 tons of it last year. The head of Apeda, India’s agricultural authority, has spoken out on the matter, acknowledging that there was indeed fraud on a ‘gigantic scale’ occurring in the industry, but that the major certification agencies responsible have been discovered and were fined accordingly back in April of last year. Meanwhile, elsewhere there’s speculation of H&M’s corporate headquarters scrambling to save its reputation. The label has addressed the issue on its website in a rather confusing statement that seems to simultaneously acknowledge and deny the error.
First, H&M claims it knew of the certification agencies problem, saying they were, ‘aware that last year the Indian authority APEDA criticized Control Union for insufficient checks of farmers’ control systems.’ Yet in the same breath they go on to suggest has been no GMO products in their clothing by saying, ‘There is no reason to believe that the organic cotton used for H&M’s garments was grown using genetically modified seeds.’ And then the announcement simply veers into its corporate philosophy, stating that:
‘Promoting organic cotton is part of H&M’s environmental strategy-we encourage cotton farmers to switch to organic cultivation. We also want to make it possible for our customers to make a greener choice, which is another reason we offer garments with certified organic cotton.’
I find it all a little bit confusing and await more news to come out of India and the fashion industry on this incident.