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H&M's New Problem: "Organic" Cotton

After the clothes destruction fracas earlier this month, H&M is now getting heat for an apparent "organic cotton" fraud:
Roughly 30 percent of the tested samples [of "certified organic" cotton] contained genetically modified cotton, says Lothar Kruse, a director of Impetus, an independent lab in Bremerhaven, which examined the cotton fabrics in question. The contaminated cotton was traced back to India, which is responsible for more than half of the global supply of organic cotton, with an output of nearly 107,000 tons of fiber in 2009 alone, according to the Organic Exchange.
First, let's get the obvious out of the way: If H&M tells you that a shirt is made form organic cotton without doing what they can to ensure that it is, that's fraud and we should complain.But if you saw Food, Inc. you'll recall that farmers in that movie were complaining that non-GM corn crops could be contaminated by GM strains simply because they were in neighboring plots. Just because the tested "organic" samples were contaminated, that doesn't necessarily mean the contamination was deliberate. Better supply chain testing would help, but if H&M stopped sourcing cotton from organic farmers whose cotton was being contaminated despite their best efforts, that might unfairly punish those farmers.It's also worth remembering that, as the Hessnatur CEO Wolf Luedge told GOOD:'s easier to secure certification for organic and ecological ingredients than it is to meet social standards, much easier, even though it's the social effects that are actually the [biggest issue] in the textile industry.
The ecological problems of pesticides related to non-organic cotton may be real, but in terms of the effect of your clothes on people's lives, buying stuff that's endorsed by Fair Wear or the Clean Clothes Campaign may be more important.Still, H&M shouldn't mislead people about what they're buying. There's more on this at EcotextileNews.

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