American Pima cotton growers have hired a security solutions firm to look at ways of verifying the Supima cotton content of branded apparel products.

Supima, the Pima cotton growers' promotional organisation, is spending $250,000 on a feasibility study by Applied DNA Sciences Inc which will explore the use of DNA-based identification technology to provide manufacturers and consumers with confirmation that the products they buy are made of Supima.

Marker protecting the fibre could also help protect the $5bn cotton industry against counterfeiting.

"We believe that this contract could have a potential global impact on the entire cotton industry," said James A Hayward, CEO of APDN.

"Because of the complexity of the textile supply chain, especially in apparel, many times the origin and identity of premium fibre content can get lost. Consequently, the origin of the fibres and textiles used in goods is difficult to trace.

"Having access to DNA-based identification technology would ensure continuity in the cotton fibre identity and protect textiles and garments from counterfeiting and fraud."

Each year, over 115m bales of cotton are produced around the world. Of this total harvest, less than 1% qualifies to carry the Supima name.

All of this cotton would be eligible for authentication services at a variety of points throughout the manufacturing and distribution process, with the potential to strengthen the Supima brand.

Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotions of Supima, added: "Using DNA, the gold standard of authentication, we will be able to confirm the authenticity of products labelled "Supima" to a forensic level, ensuring that only 100% Pima cotton is labelled Supima."