Cotton Counterfeiting Test in the Works

Applied DNA Sciences is developing an authentication method to tell whether or not products purporting to be pima are indeed the real thing.

NEW YORK — First it was high-end designer labels. Then premium jeans. Now cotton is getting its own anti-counterfeiting treatment.

In a deal signed at the end of June, Supima, the marketing agency representing U.S. growers of pima cotton, commissioned Stony Brook, N.Y.–based Applied DNA Sciences to invent an authentication method to tell whether or not products purporting to be pima, a pricier, long-staple variety of cotton fiber, are indeed the real thing.

The $250,000 feasibility study is expected to take about six months. Upon completion, resulting DNA-based identification technology would then be offered to Supima members and licensees for a fee.

Phoenix, Ariz.–based Supima, which designates its cotton as a luxury fiber, is not the first supplier to secure a premium price for its product by ensuring its authenticity. On Dec. 20 of last year, after years of lobbying by members of the cashmere and superfine woolens industry, the Wool Suit Fabric Labeling Fairness and International Standards Conforming Act was signed into law. That legislation essentially set standards for the allowable micron count in wools that were designated as both super 100s and cashmeres.

Cotton, however, requires a different test. Because the micron counts used to measure the fineness of wool and cashmere cannot be as easily applied, Supima hopes to find a DNA test that will confirm whether the cotton used in a product is pima or the more common upland cotton, which has a shorter fiber.

“We … believe that this contract could have potential global impact on the entire cotton industry,” said James Hayward, CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, a publicly traded company. Currently the worldwide cotton crop is about 115 million bales