Consumers rely on garment labels to reflect the true content and authenticity of the product. They want to know where their shirts come from, how it was made, and be able to follow the “geneology” of the shirt from dirt to shirt…

The good news is that through advancements in technology, products that could not be easily verified can now be done. One of the ways is through DNA science. Stop right there. Did you say DNA? How can a DNA test tell you where your product comes from?Well, we all know that you can do a DNA test today by ordering a DNA test kit online? In less than 2-  weeks you can get an answer right away. You are 95 percent Scottish and 5 percent English. That’s the power of DNA. DNA tests go beyond genealogy, but they can also be used in ways to identify bacteria in a food recall (like spinach), and most recently where your cotton comes from, and where the original fiber ends up.

Traceability has become the “it” thing to talk about—both for consumers and manufacturers. Translated, it shows the history and location of a product by means of recorded and documented identification. In food, recent research has predicted that the traceability market will be worth $14 billion by 2019 (Food Dive, 2018).

“I’m a sixth- eneration grower. My father ran this cotton gin, and now I run it today. Knowing that all the cotton grown in our community is tracked by a revolutionary DNA technology is important,” Maleisa Finch, Owner, Kiech Shauver Miller gin, Monette, Arkansas.

You may be surprised to learn that textile companies have been busy exploring ways to use DNA science for traceability, but also help to connect the cotton grower to you, the consumer. At the end of the day, cotton’s natural qualities for comfort, breathability, and durability, matter as you want to make sure the shirt you bought lasts and will become a staple in your wardrobe.

Recently, consumers were surveyed on why they choose to buy cotton.

According to Cotton Council International and Cotton Incorporated’s Global Environment Research report (2017), 83 percent of consumers prefer buying cotton compared to other fibres, and they associate cotton with comfort, value for money and durability.

Why Should I Care?

Consumers are also becoming increasingly conscious about learning about unethically- produced cotton and are putting pressure on the industry with their most powerful asset, their pocketbooks. Roughly three in five Americans (61 percent) who responded to a recent Harris poll say that, if they discovered that a brand made their bedding/clothing products from raw cotton that was picked by child/ forced labourers, they would not buy it. (Applied DNA 2018 Harris Poll) Confidential – Internal Use Only.

In November 2017, the French investigative TV Show, “Cash Investigation”, aired a two-hour expose on the use of government- ponsored forced labour in Uzbekistan. It pointed out that the forced pickers are mainly civil servants (many are nurses and doctors) and students who are transported by bus and escorted by the police every day to the cotton fields. They work from 6 am until 5 pm and have a daily quota which, if not met, results in sanctions such as being fired from their civil servant jobs. The documentary showed that much of the cotton produced in Uzbekistan were missing labels or had labels with misleading statements of origin. More than 280 brands and retailers signed a “Company Pledge Against Forced Labour in the Cotton Sector of Uzbekistan” however, the problem still persists today.


I’m a sixth- generation grower.My father ran this cotton gin, and now I run it today. Knowing that all the cotton grown in our  community is tracked by a revolutionary DNA technology is important

Furthermore, many of these retailers and brands have relied on a conventional “paper trail” that provides no guarantee as to the actual fibre content used in the finished product, particularly in products labeled 100 percent Pima Cotton, 100 percent Cashmere and so on. Every time a “textile” changes hands in its path to market, the potential for fibre substitution increases. This in turn increases the risk to the supply chain for the use of cheaper fibres or materials to gain a market advantage. What if there was a way to verify a product from dirt to shirt?

The New Normal: Know Your Supply Chain

The solution lies in knowing where your products come from. In the case of cotton, we know the materials come from cotton fields, but the questions about what kind cotton, where does the cotton come from, how is the cotton spun and where, who is involved in the supply, are just an example of the questions inquiring consumers want to know.

The “new normal” is to be more transparent with the consumer, and this is where DNA tagging testing and tracking can help provide scientific data to back up the product claims and to assure traceability from start to finish.

In 2014, a small biotechnology company based in Stony Brook, Long Island in New York, embarked on a journey to follow cotton grown in California, spun in China and woven and assembled in India and then sold back in the United States. The technology that began the revolution on cotton traceability is known as SigNature T.

Applying SigNature T from Dirt to Shirt

The technology known as SigNature T was applied to tag cotton at origin and then followed the taggedcotton in spun yarn, dyed fabric all the way to finished goods. Patented and proprietary, a unique SigNature T molecular taggant is applied at the cotton gin, remains stable and adheres tenaciously to cotton fibres. These taggants cannot be copied and they survive standard textile treatment processes. For pima cotton, Applied DNA offers a cotton fibre content test called fibreTyping that examines the unique naturally occurring DNA found in a pima cotton fibre.

Through the fiberTyping test, Applied DNA can confirm that a fibre is Gossypium barbadense (pima) and not cotton of a lesser value Gossypium hirsutum (e.g. upland cotton). SigNature T and fibreTyping are used in concert to scientifically prove the provenance of the pima cotton products.


The ‘new normal’ is to be more transparent with the consumer, and this is where DNA tagging testing and tracking can help provide scientific data to back up the product claims and to assure traceability from start to finish.

In sum:

  1. Cottonfibre content is verified before tagging –Pima cotton has its own internal DNA which is confirmed via fibreTyping audit of cotton arriving at the gin from the  fibreTyping is a quantitative DNA test that verifies the raw cotton fibre is 100 percent Pima cotton prior to applying the SigNature T molecular tag.
  2. Cotton identity is preserved from fibre to finished goods.After being tested via fibreTyping, the pima cotton is tagged at the gin using the fully automated SigNature T DNA Transfer System* that records date, time, location and USDA Bale Identification Number that have been treated with a unique SigNature T molecular  This establishes documentation and proof that all bales tagged with the unique SigNature T molecular tag originate from California. Applied DNA’s automated SigNature T DNA Transfer System is equipped with real- time monitoring, security and data capture, ensuring efficient and consistent SigNature T molecular tagging of the Pima cotton fibers during the entire ginning season. The systems are in constant communication with a central monitoring system via an internet connection and all data is stored in a cloud-based application.In California, three (3) pima gins use the automated SigNature T DNA Transfer Systems to tag the Pima cotton.
  3. Secure End-to-End Protocols and Procedures.The SigNature T system uses a secure chain of custody and set of protocols agreed among manufacturers, in which tagged pima cotton fiber is tracked at major  The figure below shows the key steps, including sampling and DNA testing, involved in this secure supply chain.
  4. Digital Tracking -SigNature T molecular tagging and testing is managed and achieved through a cloud-based Textiles Portal.

Since 2014, over 200 million lbs of cotton have been tagged, representing the source of a total end-to-end traceability solution that is substantiated by forensic test data. Over 5,000 DNA tests have been conducted on cotton tagged for the past 4 years. SigNature T technology utilizes fully-automated DNA Transfer Systems in the “Industrial Internet of Things” design that have been installed in 10 gins in US and Australia.

“The database of information we collect from the tagging and testing of cotton fibre now reaches into the millions of data points covering bale identity, spray quality and supply chain testing metrics to ensure true cotton integrity that can be preserved from source to the retail level,” stated Dr. James Hayward, CEO of Applied DNA. “The global implementation of proper controls for segregation of cotton at the gin all the way to finished goods ensures total traceability with no room for substitution.”

Since 2014, over 200 million lbs of cotton have been tagged, representing the source of a total end-to-end traceability solution that is substantiated by


Our SigNature T cotton traceability system provides substantial advantages over current supply chain management authentication, such as isotopes, RFID, data dots or ‘certificates of authenticity’,” said Dr. James A Hayward, CEO of Applied DNA. “Today, uncertainty of cotton supply chains remains if there is no way to physically trace the fibres to their source, and verify through DNA testing at yarn, fabric and finished goods. You cannot put an RFID on every single fibre and expect it to remain on the finished good. SigNature T combined with the GeoTyping Beta Program, provides full traceability that is seamless, economical and exact.”

Applied DNA is a provider of molecular technologies that enable supply chain security, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft technology, product genotyping and DNA mass production for diagnostics and therapeutics.

Applied DNA makes life real and safe by providing innovative, molecular-based technology solutions and services that can help protect products, brands, entire supply chains, and intellectual property of companies, governments and consumers from theft, counterfeiting, fraud and diversion. forensic test data. Over 5,000 DNA tests have been conducted on cotton tagged for the past 4 years.

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