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Slave labor is the ugly side of fashion that often gets swept under the rug to continue to please consumers and get them to buy items in droves. However, thanks to new forensic DNA technology, there may now be a way to determine if your clothes were made ethically—and legally.

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Source: FRED DUFOUR / Getty

Business of Fashion has all the details surrounding the ground-breaking development as well as insight into the detailed scientific process.

Via Business of Fashion:

Shoppers lured by a bargain-priced t-shirt but concerned about whether the item is free of slave labor could soon have the answer — from DNA forensic technology. James Hayward, chief executive of US-based Applied DNA Sciences Inc. that develops DNA-based technology to prevent counterfeiting and ensure authenticity, said his researchers have been working in the cotton industry for up to nine years.

He said this was prompted by rising concerns about the global cotton industry, that provides income for more than 250 million people, using child and slave labor in harvesting the crop and the during the production process to make clothes. “Often each country [is] performing a single function in the transformation of a mature cotton fibre, a single cell into a finished product like a cotton shirt … Along the way there are many opportunities for cheating,” said Hayward.

“Our primary aim is to cleanse the cotton supply chain and by that, I mean eliminating any diversion, any mislabelling, any counterfeiting that can take place throughout the cotton supply chain,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Hayward said an ideal way to ascertain the true identity of a natural commodity was to use the DNA that nature gave that commodity or to mark it with a manufactured DNA. This could allow the cotton to be traced to where it was picked before it went into the ginning process that cleans away seed and other debris for packaging into bails to ship around the world for spinning, dyeing and to make into clothes.

Hayward explained his statements about slave labor, saying “I think many consumers would be appalled to contemplate the notion that the garment they’re wearing could be the product of human trafficking.” The technology includes two types of DNA, engineered and natural, and could provide a trail from finished goods back to the originating crop. He also stated that he hopes to have the process in place within the next year or two.


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New Scientific Technology May Soon Be Able To Tell If Your Clothes Are Slave Labor-Free  was originally published on