A new research agreement for enhanced cotton genotyping will enable cotton to be differentiated based on country of origin – and help brands, retailers and manufacturers avoid fibres from regions using forced labour.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between product authentication business Applied DNA Sciences (APDN) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is designed to enhance APDN's proprietary identification methods of cotton species and cultivars, collectively trademarked as FiberTyping.

This will assist the cotton industry in protecting quality, traceability and economic investments, the two companies have said.

For example, enhanced FiberTyping will be able to differentiate cotton based on country of origin, and could ensure that cotton from countries known to use child labour would not be incorporated into tested products. 

Already in commercial use, FiberTyping methods are used to analyse cotton products, and confirm with precision the presence of Gossypium barbadense DNA (or Pima Extra Long Staple) and/or Gossypium hirsutum DNA (or Upland). 

"Our collaboration with the USDA will accelerate our ability to identify key cultivars for specific cotton growing regions based on our patented technology," said Dr Mike Hogan, VP of life sciences at Applied DNA Sciences.

"We believe the synergy of our expertise, together with the expertise of the cotton genomics experts at USDA, will result in a library of key cotton genome targets for commercial use. Consequently, we will be able to identify the fibres that are most desirable, and exclude fibres that are harvested from regions known to use forced or underage labour."

APDN has been granted an option to negotiate an exclusive license for any inventions made by USDA or jointly made by APDN and USDA.