Today’s eco-question: Traceability – Is it possible to guarantee a cotton’s origins?

Traceability is paramount when it comes to sustainability. Without reliable information, it’s impossible to make a precise assessment and change what needs to be changed.

A path strewn with pitfalls

Cottons are a particularly knotty issue. From organic cotton that turns out not to be, to Egyptian cotton that doesn’t qualify as premium, a number of falsification scandals have been recently been exposed thanks to an actual analysis of purchased qualities.

In the past, cotton could be identified with an upstream batch code, but it was impossible to verify its identity once it was assembled and transformed into fabric.

And retracing the fashion value chain to extract information can sometimes resemble an archaeological endeavor. Today, this research is more akin to a scientific undertaking, and draws on technologies to verify fibers, with a clear physical traceability of the products.

Read also: Smart Keys: The challenges of traceability

Science gets to the heart of fibers

Various techniques can now be used to verify the authenticity of a fiber, via a forensic DNA analysis of the material, or markers embedded in the product that enable it to be traced from one end of the value chain to the other.

Oritain uses analyses of samples from the region where the cotton is grown, forming a database of a product’s origin, which can then be used as a reference for comparison in order to verify items later on.

Another possibility are the Haelixa or Applied DNA Science markers, which can be added at any moment in a product’s development, and remain intrinsically embedded, from the raw material and on through the processing stages, so that each batch can be precisely traced. These DNA molecules create a unique and easily verified fingerprint.

A third solution is FiberTrace, which uses luminescent markers that can also be affixed and identified throughout the production stages. Here, verification can be performed immediately with a spectrometer calibrated to read the tracers, which are invisible to the naked eye, thus providing proof of authenticity.

To ensure optimum reliability, this data can then be entered into a blockchain, enabling the data to be consolidated and safeguarded.

So, whether DNA technology or luminescent markers, it’s your turn to start exploring the science of origins!

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