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Dr James Hayward
President and CEO Applied DNA Sciences
We are working more towards fibre typing
It was largely believed that mature cotton does not possess DNA. However, Applied DNA Sciences has a path-breaking theory to test authenticity of any given cotton variant by its DNA analysis. This method is fast gaining grounds in the global textile and apparel industry. Dr James Hayward, president and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, explains this technology to Fibre2Fashion.com
Yours is a novel concept in the cotton supply chain authentication process. Can you explain the complete process?
It is very simple. We have two processes. The first is a method of identifying DNA which
is inherent in cotton. To explain this, I have to take you on a tour of the past. For many years, it was thought that there was no DNA in mature cotton. This is true if you are talking about nuclear DNA. When cotton matures and flowers, it triggers the death of cells in a kind of programme build-up. In that process, the nuclear DNA or the genomic DNA is digested, and cut into very small fragments. So, by the time the cotton is picked, which is usually after 45 days of flowering, there is hardly any trace of the nuclear DNA in the cells. The scenario remains the same when raw cotton is processed into finished products.
We discovered that there is another source of DNA that does survive. That source of DNA is in the chloroplast of the cotton plant, an organelle converting sunlight into sugar. The chloroplast has a very small, circular DNA. There are many such organelles inside cotton fibre. We used to wonder whether that DNA survives during flowering, unlike the nuclear DNA which does not. We explored deeper to find that it did survive, not just during the flowering process, but also for more than 100 years.
That is how we discovered that there is DNA in matured cotton. This DNA can be used in discovering mutation, or distinguishing between extra long staple and upland cotton. We patented this process. As we implemented this tool to identify whether a said textile is extra long staple or upland, we were shocked to find that many finished materials in the market labelled as 100 per cent extra long staple or 100 per cent pure pima, contained large amounts of upland. The materials were completely mislabelled.
Our second process was the development of a process for treating this problem. We have two discoveries for this. One was a diagnostic tool to fix the industry's supply chain. The second is a tool we call the Signature T DNA. It's a DNA tag that we engineered. If we apply that tag at a gin, we can track that fibre as it goes through the supply chain - from the gin to the finished product. So we have two tools - one is a tracking tool and the other one is a tool to tell us which category the finished product fits in. Now, we have taken these tools further to identify the other materials in the finished product.
What are the common blends observed in pima cotton apparel claiming purity? Please share some general intricacies of this industry.
The blending process has been perfected by industry insiders for many years. Blending has been carried out by manufacturers trying to improve margins. We see quantities of up to 100 per cent upland in what is claimed to be 100 per cent pima.
There was no way for brand owners or retailers to prove that. Our methods allow brand owners and retailers, who want to ensure that their label claims are accurate, to prove whether their products are mislabelled or not. Our experience says that brand owners want to ensure that their products are compliant and correctly labelled.
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