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OCA sets new guidelines for non-GM cottonseed producers

May 07, 2021
OCA sets new guidelines for non-GM cottonseed producers

Amsterdam (The Netherlands), May 12, 2021

The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) has released the Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines, which provide the textile sector with a key tool for safeguarding the integrity of organic cotton at the seed level; the very start of the supply chain. These guidelines aim to create a standardised industry approach for the production of non-genetically engineered (non-GM) seed marketed to organic cotton growers, and as such improve the integrity of the entire organic cotton value chain from seed to shirt.

Led by OCA, these guidelines have been developed in consultation with sector experts and via field pilots at three Indian seed producers. They are now made available to producers of non-GM cottonseed who want to implement solid practices to monitor and prevent GMO presence along their seed supply chain. Ultimately, these guidelines are set to help the growing number of Indian organic smallholder farmers by increasing their access to non-GM seed and strengthening the integrity of organic cotton produce for brands and retailers.

A much-needed global common framework 

The market demand for organic cotton is growing. As the seed forms the starting point of the cotton value chain, to meet such demand we need to secure the availability of reliable non-GM seed, an essential requirement in organic farming. Organic regulations guarantee that organic producers take far-reaching steps to avoid GMO contamination from farmers, to spinners, to brands. However, in countries where GM cotton dominates the market – like India, accidental GMO contamination at seed level may incur, making it challenging to secure the basic characteristics of the seed required by organic farming regulations and jeopardising the integrity of the broader organic cotton sector.

Responding to this critical need of the sector, OCA, through its Seed and Innovation Programme, is focused on improving non-GM cottonseed availability as an essential first step in working towards setting up organic cottonseed value chains. Through the Programme, OCA provides the joint largest investment in cotton cultivars suitable for organic agriculture, as well as interventions on GM screening, the creation of a database of organic cotton farm groups and capacity building for farmers and trainers. By developing the Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines, OCA wants to help seed producers monitor and prevent GMO presence in different contexts and countries all over the world, from early breeding stages up to the final production, processing and packaging of planting seed.

Commenting on the Non-GM Cottonseed Production Guidelines, Vivek Rawal, CEO & Director at bioRe India, said, “Each Indian Farm Group has long been seeking its own remedy for one and the same challenge: procuring reliable non-GM seed for their farmers. By strengthening and validating seed producerscapacity to implement standard practices for preventing GMO presence in their cottonseed lots, OCA’s Seed Assurance Programme significantly reduces the risk of GMO contamination in seed lots marketed to farm groups and limits the need for repeated GMO sampling and testing by farm groups.

OCA's Programme Officer, Mathilde Tournebize, added, "OCA is very grateful for the input and feedback from technical experts and Indian seed producers who contributed to developing these guidelines. We have already started rolling out the implementation of the guidelines in India, starting with Partech Seeds. By verifying Partech’s compliance to these guidelines using second-party verification audits at the end of 2021, they will be able to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, while their clients will feel more confident to source reliable non-GM seed to grow their organic cotton with.

Partech Seeds has established a long term partnership with OCA and is a leading partner invested in producing seed for the Indian organic cotton sector. Commenting on the collaboration, Snehal Doshi, Director of Partech Seeds Pvt Ltd, said, “We have been working in this sector for several years with most major farm groups under OCA’s Farm Programme. Adopting the guidelines has helped us consolidate our efforts and streamline our systems. It comes at a time when the demand for non GM cotton seeds have increased manifolds and there is a shortage of quality seeds in the market. We aim to strengthen our process in a cost efficient manner through the guidelines hoping to cater to this increased demand in the sector.

OCA is also rolling out the Non-GM Seed Assurance Programme by partnering with seed producers and providing capacity building support on a need basis to implement these guidelines.

The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) is a multi-stakeholder organisation dedicated to organic cotton. As a global platform, it is committed to bringing integrity, supply security and measurable social and environmental impact to organic cotton.