The Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines have been issued by the Amsterdam-based Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA), which provides the textile industry with a crucial tool for safeguarding the integrity of organic cotton at the seed level – the very start of the supply chain.
The guidelines are intended to provide a standardized industry strategy for the cultivation of non-genetically modified (non-GM) seeds sold to organic cotton farmers, thus improving the integrity of the entire organic cotton supply chain from seed to shirt.
The guidelines, led by OCA, were established in consultation with industry experts and through field trials at three Indian seed producers. They are now available to non-GM cottonseed producers who want to develop sound practices for monitoring and preventing GMO presence in their seed supply chain. Finally, the guidelines are designed to assist India's growing number of organic smallholder farmers by expanding their access to non-GM seed and ensuring the quality of organic cotton products for brands and retailers.
Organic regulations ensure that organic manufacturers, from farmers to spinners to brands, take extensive precautions to prevent GMO contamination. Accidental GMO contamination at seed level may occur in countries where GM cotton dominates the industry, such as India, making it difficult to obtain the specific characteristics of the seed needed by organic farming regulations and jeopardizing the reputation of the wider organic cotton sector.
OCA's Seed and Innovation Program is addressing this vital need by focusing on increasing non-GM cottonseed supply as a necessary first step toward establishing organic cottonseed value chains. OCA makes the joint largest investment in organic cotton cultivars, as well as initiatives on GM screening, the development of a database of organic cotton farm groups, and skill-building for farmers and trainers, through the scheme.
OCA hopes that by establishing the Non-GM Cottonseed Development Guidelines, it will be able to assist seed producers in monitoring and preventing GMO presence in various contexts and countries around the world, from early breeding stages to final seed production, refining, and packaging.
CEO and director at bioRe India, Vivek Rawal, said each Indian farm group has long sought its own solution to a common problem: obtaining reliable non-GM seed for their farmers. The OCA Seed Assurance Program decreases the chance of contamination in seed lots sold to farm groups and reduces the requirement for farm groups to sample and monitor GMOs on a regular basis.
Mathilde Tournebize, OCA’s program officer, added that OCA is grateful for the contributions and suggestions from professional experts and Indian seed farmers who helped create these guidelines. They have already begun implementing the guidelines in India, with Partech Seeds in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, as a pilot project. Partech will be able to distinguish itself in the industry by using second-party certification audits to validate its conformity to these standards by the end of 2021, whilst its clients will feel more secure in sourcing reputable non-GM seed to cultivate their organic cotton with.
Partech Seeds has a long-term relationship with OCA and is a key player in seed production for the Indian organic cotton industry.
Director of Partech Seeds, Snehal Doshi, said under OCA's Farm Program, they've been involved in this field for many years with the majority of large farm groups. They were able to consolidate their activities and streamline their processes by following the guidance. It comes at a time when there is a large rise in demand for non-GM cotton seeds, as well as a scarcity of high-quality seeds on the market. Via the guidelines, they hope to improve their operation in a cost-effective way and meet the increased demand.
The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) is a multi-stakeholder organization devoted to organic cotton. OCA has been committed to convening the industry around a shared vision and leveraging joint investments to serve as a catalyst for transformation since its inception in 2016, with founding members Eileen Fisher, Textile Exchange, Laudes Foundation, H&M, Kering, Tchibo, Inditex, and C&A.
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