International agreement on a GM screening protocol published: 'IWA 32:2019 Screening of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in cotton and textiles'

26-04-2019 The ability to make credible claims about the presence of GM cotton in (organically certified) textiles and garment based on globally accepted objective methods is an important component in strengthening the cotton and textiles sector and serving the interest of industry and consumers. Acknowledging the industry’s need for clarity, within ISO, recently an agreement was reached on how to screen (processed) cotton on potential presence of known GMOs.

IWA 32:2019 'Screening of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in cotton and textiles' provides guidance to laboratories worldwide to assess, in a standardized way, whether cotton, cotton fibre and/or cotton-derived materials are produced from, or contain materials from, genetically modified (GM) cotton plants. This document is intended for non-GM cotton and textiles production lines, but it can be applied to any production line that wants to check the presence of GM cotton.

IWA 32 describes a procedure to screen seed, leaf and (processed) fibre samples in the cotton production chain for the potential presence of GM-related DNA elements. The protocol describes three major steps:

  • an effective way to isolate DNA from cotton materials;
  • a method to confirm that the isolated DNA consists of amplifiable cotton DNA, i.e. suitable for PCR, preferably a low copy nuclear target;
  • a screening method consisting of a minimum set of detection methods covering all the currently known GM cotton events, to be performed on the cotton DNA isolate.

All parties concerned

The Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA) approached the Dutch standardization institute NEN to facilitate the development of this IWA. The recognized development process has assured that the IWA includes perspectives from all parties concerned and is based on consensus. The technical project lead was handled by EU Reference Laboratory RIKILT. The Forum for Future provided an independent chair of the IWA-committee in this multi-stakeholder process.


Stakeholders were invited to participate in the development of the protocol. Around 80 experts from 23 countries signed up for the project. ISO International Workshop Agreement includes therefore the perspectives and feedback from all parties concerned. The IWA is consensus-based and was developed autumn 2018 and finalized during an International Workshop that was held Mid-January 2019 in New Delhi, India.

More information

More information on IWA 32 can be found here or contact Charlotte Mosies via

More information on ISO can be found here.

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