Sustainable fashion, also called ethical fashion or slow fashion, is becoming increasingly present in the minds of consumers and manufacturers. Aware that the textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world, there is growing concern about the materials and processes used in the manufacture of fashion articles. In this regard, new brands that focus their business model on a sustainable catalogue are emerging, while those that already exist are diversifying their ranges with products that are more environmentally friendly, which is what society is demanding. Nowadays, it is not rare to read ‘100% organic cotton’ on product labels. However, until now there has been no methodology of analysis, or certification to verify that the final garments labelled as organic cotton are really so.
In order to carry out an assessment of the degree of compliance with ‘organic cotton standard’ labelling, the Lugo-based laboratory has conducted a study which concludes that about 40% of the items labelled as organic cotton that were tested used transgenic cotton instead, which would rule out the possibility of them being labelled as organic. Garments present in the market have been analysed both in physical stores located around Spain and in online stores, detecting either the presence or absence of transgenic cotton. The results of this study highlight the need for control and methods to verify the information given to the consumer, in order to prevent fraud in the labelling of this type of products.
This is the reason why AMSlab is developing a new test that verifies the presence or absence of genetically modified cotton in final garments labelled as organic cotton. This analysis, which is already being marketed, performs two tests on final garments. On the one hand, a genetic analysis is carried out to detect genetic modification of cotton and, on the other, a chemical analysis to detect pesticides.
The Galician biotech company emphasises that the clients selected for the GMO test for organic cotton are companies that purchase certified raw materials for manufacturing, and retailers that purchase final garments ready for labelling.
Currently, organic cotton control is being done on a documentary basis through certifying bodies that ensure cotton production meets their standards (use of cotton seeds that have not been genetically modified, non-use of pesticides, environmentally friendly practices, etc.). AMSlab’s new test is a very powerful and useful complementary tool in terms of detecting fraud and possible contamination in the manufacturing of products labelled as organic.
Soraya Lolo, head of AMSlab’s BIO department, explains that organic cotton control is done on a documentary basis by certifying bodies. ‘The detection of the presence or absence of genetic modification of cotton in final garments is an innovative AMSlab service’, she says.
Manuel Lolo, CEO of the Lugo-based laboratory, stresses the importance of analysing final garments because, if they contain any genetically modified organisms, any previous certification would be declared null and void.
The Galician company adds this test to its catalogue of services, which also includes other analyses, such as the Vegan Test, which verifies the absence of products of animal origin in clothing, footwear, and accessories labelled under the vegan standard.
This vegan test, developed in collaboration with the PeTA organisation, crosses all borders and has been highly acclaimed in the market. This is because it is the only worldwide analysis that enables fashion brands to identify their products as vegan in their labels, increasing their value and recognition by ensuring they use animal-friendly materials.
As with organic cotton certificates, the control of products labelled as vegan is done on a documentary basis. The Vegan Test is therefore essential to determine the presence or absence of any component of animal origin.
In addition, the Vegan Test goes a step further and launches a second phase. AMSlab’s R&D department is currently carrying out research to incorporate into the vegan package, in the short term, an analysis to determine the presence of dyes of animal origin. Some examples include squid ink or cochineal blood, an insect known as ‘carmine cochineal’ because it is used as a natural dye to give cosmetics their carmine colouring.
AMSlab’s new GMO test for organic cotton falls within the framework of the QC4SUSTEX research project, through which the necessary tools are developed to certify sustainability in the fashion world. This is achieved, on the one hand, by controlling the environmental impact of wastewater generated by retailers from the textile industry, and by ensuring, on the other hand, that products claiming to be sustainable as they use certain materials are actually so. Other four Galician companies are also participating in this project, namely Mestrelab Research, Organistry, 2xMil Soluciones, and Xenotechs Laboratorios. In addition, they are backed by several research groups from the University of Santiago de Compostela. QC4SUSTEX is subsidised by the Galician Innovation Agency (GAIN), through Conecta Peme and the European Regional Development Fund.