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USDA approves GOTS certified organic textiles
Jun '11
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (USDA's NOP) for its May 20 Policy Memorandum addressing the labeling of textile products containing organic ingredients (such as organic cotton, organic wool, and organic linen). The new policy supersedes the July 2008 NOP fact sheet entitled “Labeling of Textiles under National Organic Program (NOP) Regulations.”

This latest memo, “Labeling of Textiles that Contain Organic Ingredients,” confirms that processed textile products such as apparel, mattresses, or socks labeled as “organic” must be third-party certified, and all fibers identified as “organic” contained in the textile product must be certified organic to the NOP regulations.

The NOP Policy Memo also clarifies that while the NOP regulations do not include specific processing or manufacturing standards for textile products, a product can be labeled as “organic” and make reference to NOP certification if it is produced in full compliance with both the NOP production standards (crops and livestock for raw materials) and the NOP handling standards (processing for the finished product).

This includes all processing methods allowed under 7 CFR 205.270 and all ingredients and inputs allowed under 205.605 and 205.606 of the National List. However, as most of these methods and ingredients are not applicable to textile processing, NOP labeling is likely unachievable for most garments and textile products that use a variety of dyestuffs and auxiliary agents.

As a practical alternative, the policy memo explicitly confirms that textile products that are produced in accordance with the the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) may be sold as 'organic' in the U.S. though they may not refer to NOP certification or carry the USDA organic seal. 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 that are made with organic fiber.

Additional correspondence with the NOP clarified that “made with organic (specified ingredient)” is a codified labeling category under the NOP as well as a labeling category under GOTS. Accordingly, textile manufacturers choosing to make a fiber content claim in accordance with the FTC labeling requirements should use terminology such as “contains 80% organic cotton.” The NOP labeling requirements are in addition to those required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) labeling requirements.

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