In the letter dated 13 June, the 887 signatories that represent a substantial number of farmers, argued that the EU Council endorsing PEF or PEFCR to underpin the Green Claims Directive “unfairly favours synthetic, fossil fuel-derived materials over natural fibres, misrepresenting natural fibres as harmful to the environment.”

They warned this poses a significant risk to farmers whose livelihoods depend on the production of natural fibres like cotton, wool and silk.

With the EU Council expected to formalise its position on 17 June, the farmers implored policymakers to reconsider using PEF, stating it “directly contradicts the EU’s promise to make ‘fast fashion out of fashion'” and support farmers facing climate change impacts.

The collective urges the EU Council to ensure that the policy “reflects the impact of natural fibre production and does not risk damaging the livelihoods of farmers.”

“If the EU introduces a policy that favours cheap, synthetic fibres used by the fast fashion industry, the struggle for farmers will become even more severe and they may have no option but to give up on farming practices,” the letter stated.

The farmers, representing countries including Mongolia, India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and the US, position themselves as “custodians” committed to sustainable farming practices that support biodiversity and soil health. However, they argued that PEF overlooks these benefits.

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“While we fully support meaningful sustainability labelling of clothing products based on accurate and complete methodologies, it is clear that the PEF methodology is not adequate to assess the environmental performance of agricultural products and will therefore enable greenwashing by fast fashion brands,” the collective wrote.

The letter also raised concerns about the PEF voting process, claiming high costs prohibit farmer participation while synthetic fibre companies hold outsized influence, highlighting an “extreme disadvantage” for farmers up against the “well-funded and powerful” fast fashion industry.

According to the letter, none of the 26 voting members are farmers and it’s claimed that decisions are voted on and agreed by a two-thirds majority – there are 14 total voting members, eight of which have a synthetic business model to protect.

The EU Council had not responded to Just Style’s request for comment at the time of going to press.

Signatories of the letter included The Sourcery who represent 250,000 smallholder growers in India, the European Cotton Alliance (ECA), Sustainable Fibre Alliance and Fibershed.

On 29 May, Just Style explored Italian clothing company OVS’s cotton cultivation partnership in Sicily which it said opened its eyes to the reality of raw material sourcing and why it wants more brands to do the same.