Applied DNA is an American company that offers molecular tagging and authentication services to apparel brands and retailers seeking to prove the authenticity of their cotton. It is now looking for partners to help eradicate forced labor in Uzbek cotton fields, while facilitating a global collaboration in identifying and highlighting Uzbek cottons that are harvested by modern machinery without forced labor.
While this is a laudable goal by Applied DNA, an alternative for brands and retailers who wish to avoid supply chain risks would be simply not to source from Uzbekistan until the country gives assurances that it has addressed forced and child labor issues. Companies such as Tesco, Puma, Inditex, Marks & Spencer and Adidas are among the more than 100 businesses which have pledged not to source cotton from Uzbekistan.
The United States recognizes Uzbek cotton as a product made with forced labor and has stopped goods made with Uzbek cotton at the border under a law prohibiting import of goods made with forced labor. Applied DNA’s advances in molecular tagging and cotton genotyping can provide technical guidance on cotton produced with forced labor from countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan that can then be used by brands, retailers, supply chain intermediaries and law enforcement to ensure responsible sourcing.