OTA’s Fiber Council convened a task force of members in September to address the very heart of misleading organic claims and prepare comments on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Organic Program (NOP) joint consumer survey. The survey focused on consumers’ perception of false claims on non-food products, namely textiles and body care products.
An ongoing concern for the organic sector has been the lack of enforcement of organic claims on non-food items that are non-agricultural.
Fifty companies in the United States are now certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Meanwhile, Canada has seven companies certified to the program. GOTS is the stringent voluntary global standard for the entire post-harvest processing—including spinning, knitting, weaving, dyeing and manufacturing—of apparel and home textiles made with organic fiber. The standard includes both environmental and social criteria.
Growing Organic Cotton
In 1993, a group of farmers on the high plains of Texas planted thousands of acres of organic and transitional cotton. After finding a very underdeveloped market with only one or two potential customers, they formed the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC).
With no paid staff, the organization worked out of co-founder Jimmy Wedel’s home trying to develop a totally unknown market.
Twenty-three years later, the farmers who make up TOCMC are receiving OTA’s Farmer of the Year Organic Leadership Award.
Textile Exchange (TE) has released two reports that highlight leading companies in the use of organic cotton and sustainable fibers and materials, and detail what they are doing to improve sustainability in the textile value chain.
Enforcement of “Organic” claims on non-food items
OTA and Textile Exchange (TE) have announced an important collaboration to strengthen the North American organic textile industry’s public policy influence and public relations efforts. The two groups have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together on legislative advocacy, public outreach and consumer education initiatives.
Still a small portion of the organic fiber business in the United States, organic wool is starting to see some gains in the marketplace here. OTA member Jagger Brothers of Springvale, Maine, markets organic wool yarn certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) which it spins from organic wool imported from South America. The yarn is organically dyed at the GOTS certified Saco River Dyehouse, also in Maine, and brought back to Jagger Brothers for distribution. It is then marketed as The Green Line from Jagger Spun, a division of Jagger Brothers, as hanks for hand knitting and as one-pound cones for machine knitters and weavers.
Visionaries in the organic sector are investing in efforts to groom the next generation of organic researchers. Clif Bar Family Foundation’s Seed Matters™ initiative to fund four fellowships totaling $500,000 for four Ph.D. students studying plant breeding in North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin is designed not only to improve seed for today’s organic farmers, but is seen as investing in leaders for the future.