The so-called ‘franken frocks’ will not harm the health of the person wearing the GM cotton but many feel that the public has not been consulted about the long term implications on the environment.
Simon Ferringo, the author of a new book exposing the realities of the industry, explained that while only 12 countries grow GM they account for most of the world’s production.
In India up to 90 per cent of the crop is now genetically engineered to be resistant to certain pests. In China and the US it is also GM.
“There is no breakdown of GM or non-GM cotton use in the UK, but as an importer of finished textiles from regions where cotton is mostly GM, it is assumed up to ¾ is from GM seeds,” he said.
In fact It is becoming so difficult to get hold of organic cotton that major retailers have teamed up to ensure ‘sustainable cotton’ can be GM.
The Better Cotton Initiative includes Tesco, Sainsbury’s, H&M, Adidas, Nike and M&S.
The ‘sustainable cotton consortium’ admits its product may be GM: “BCI has adopted a position of being ‘technology neutral’ with respect to GM cotton. This means that BCI will neither encourage farmers to grow it, nor seek to restrict their access to it, provided it is legally available to them”.
“Many retailers are committed to sourcing more sustainable cotton,” said Mr Ferringo. “However, they have little control over their general supply so GM use is increasing and is only offset by sustainable sourcing.”
The Organic Cotton Initiative is urging consumers to choose organic for environmental reasons. Organic and fairtrade cotton does not use GM.
“Larger brands tend to do a lot of ‘blending’ – using organic alongside non-organic. The issue is partly about shortage of supply of organic cotton, due to the dominance of the GM corporations. That is why the campaign is pressing big brands to sign up and drive the demand for organic, non-GM cotton,” said a spokesman.
Amy Leech, Soil Association research assistant, explained that GM cotton can use dangerous pesticides and gives farmers little control over their own crop.
She claimed that organic cotton uses less water and is a better deal for farmers.
“Growing cotton is a toxic business; it uses a lot of pesticides – putting in peril the lives of women, men and children in cotton farming communities. 77 million cotton workers suffer poisonings from pesticides each year.”