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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Banned Chinese cotton found in 19 percent of US and global retailers merchandise

A study highlighting the challenges of complying with the U.S. law aimed at blocking imports of cotton linked to forced labor in China revealed that traces of banned Chinese cotton were found in 19 percent of a sample of merchandise selling at U.S. and global retailers.

The study released on Tuesday, reported that researchers from natural resource analytics, isotope testing firm Stratum Reservoir and DNA lab Applied DNA Sciences analyzed garment samples, cotton swabs and shoes from big box retailers and e-commerce platforms. The firms declined to name the retailers whose merchandise they tested.

The scientists used isotopic testing, which can link cotton to specific geographic areas by analyzing the concentration of stable elements like carbon and hydrogen present in both the crop and the environment in which it has been grown, experts say. They tested the merchandise for traces of cotton from Xinjiang, the far western region of China.

The U.S. enacted a law in 2021 to safeguard its market from products potentially tainted by human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where the U.S. government says China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. China denies abuses in Xinjiang, a major cotton producer that also supplies much of the world’s materials for solar panels.

A federal report published in 2022 estimated that cotton from Xinjiang accounted for roughly 87 percent of China’s production and 23 percent of the global supply in 2020 and 2021. Countries including Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh – some of the world’s largest producers of cotton clothing and consumer goods – still import large quantities of finished fabric from China. It then often makes its way to the U.S. in the form of apparel made by suppliers in those countries, according to the report.

Of the 822 products tested, 19 percent had traces of Xinjiang cotton, the researchers said. The study tested a sample of items from February 2023 through March 2024. Of the items that tested positive for Xinjiang cotton, 57 percent featured labels that claimed the origin of the merchandise was U.S.-only, the researchers said.

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