New Report Confirms Challenges of Sourcing Seed For Organic Cotton Cultivation

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A new research survey from Textile Exchange reveals just how difficult it is to get non-GMO organic cotton seed.

Just how difficult is it to get non-GMO organic cotton seed? A new research survey from Textile Exchange reveals the answer, providing for the first time a bird’s eye view of worldwide and region-specific organic cotton seed availability, contamination issues, trends in cotton production, challenges in cotton production and opinions on what the “ideal” cotton is. What kind of cotton should be grown in 2025 and what sort of seed programs should be implemented in which regions to ensure integrity and growth of organic cotton production? The TE survey report has the answers.

Approximately 81% of respondents overall, including 90% of organic farmers who responded, say that organic cotton seed is difficult to access. In countries where GM cotton is predominant (the USA, India, China and Burkina Faso) close to 90% of respondents feel it is “difficult” to “impossible” to access organic cotton seed. Accessing organic cotton seed is considered problematic even in countries where GM cotton is not grown.

Almost 96% of respondents believe that seed multiplication programs are important to ensure the availability of organic cotton seed.

Next to seed multiplication, breeding programs to better adapt varieties to organic and low-input growing conditions were a priority. The survey recommends that workshops be implemented in India, China and West Africa to develop detailed seed strategies for those areas.

"Organic seed is the base of organic cotton production. This inventory reveals that accessing organic cotton seed is considered problematic even in countries where GM cotton is not grown. It means we have to work on seed production programs and developing better adapted varieties at the same time!"

Prof. Dr. Edith T. Lammerts van Bueren,
Senior Researcher Organic Plant Breeding, Louis Bolk Institute

This explorative study is an inventory: A first assessment of the problems of accessing organic seed and the contamination of organic cotton seed with genetic modification (GM) in the field. Outcomes of the inventory lead to hypotheses to be tested in further regional workshops. This inventory is an initial step in developing a master plan for safeguarding the availability of organic cotton seed.

To download the full report click here.
Join us for the Organic Cotton Round Table meeting in Mumbai on the 8th October.

This study was commissioned by Textile Exchange and financed by EILEEN FISHER and Bayer CropScience. It was implemented by the Seed & Soils Task Force Advisory Group, established at the 2013 Organic Cotton Round Table in Istanbul, Turkey.

Chair: Edith Lammerts van Bueren, Breeding Researcher, Louis Bolk Institute, Driebergen and Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
Members include: Monika Messmer, Breeding Researcher, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture-FiBL, Frick, Switzerland
Mans Lanting, Agronomist (Lanting AgriConsult, Randwijk, The Netherlands),
Jane Dever, Texas A&M AgriLife Research (Texas, USA).
With Textile Exchange support from:
Liesl Truscott, European and Farm Engagement Director
Prabha Nagarajan, Regional Director and
Lisa Emberson, Farm Program Coordinator

Textile Exchange
Textile Exchange (TE), founded in 2002, is a global nonprofit organization that works closely with all sectors of the textile supply chain to find the best ways to minimize and even reverse the negative impacts on water, soil, air, and the human population created by this $1.7 trillion industry. TE accomplishes this by providing the knowledge and tools this industry needs to make significant improvements in three core areas: Materials, Integrity and Supply Chain. A truly global organization, TE is headquartered in the United States with presence also in Europe, Latin America, India, China and Africa. To learn more about Textile Exchange, visit: Follow TE on Twitter at @TextileExchange.

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