Applied DNA goes ‘Beyond’ in cotton quest

Believe it: The cotton in that Wamsutta bedding package comes from California, and thanks to Applied DNA Sciences, Bed Bath & Beyond can now prove it.

Applied DNA Sciences is going to Bed Bath & Beyond, but not because it needs new towels.

Instead, the Stony Brook-based provider of DNA-focused supply chain, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft technologies, as well as product-genotyping and product-authentication solutions, is incorporating its “textile molecular tag” technology into the national retailer’s Wamsutta line – cotton products that claim to be made exclusively from pure Pima cotton grown in California.

Now, thanks to Applied DNA’s SigNature T tagging and testing product-authentication platform, Bed Bath & Beyond can prove it. SigNature T “verifies that the Wamsutta home fashions products sold to consumers are pure Pima cotton, grown in the San Joaquin Valley,” the Stony Brook biotech said Tuesday.

In an era when forced human labor in countries like Uzbekistan is putting a stink on global cotton supplies, that’s a fairly big deal. A December 2016 Harris Poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted on behalf of Applied DNA, found that 61 percent of respondents would stop purchasing bedding or clothing products if they discovered the cotton was picked by child or forced laborers.

Another 30 percent said they’d stop buying if a product’s claims of being 100 percent organic or 100 percent Pima cotton were proven untrue.

Through the SigNature T platform – featuring a botanical DNA-based molecular tag that attaches to cotton fibers and ensures traceability throughout the entire manufacturing process, domestically and abroad – the truth is readily available, according to Applied DNA President and CEO James Hayward, who noted modern consumers “care deeply about where their products originate.”

James Hayward: Consumers care about authenticity.

“We can now preserve the integrity of premium U.S. cotton throughout the supply chain, promoting its traceability to farms which grow and produce responsibly and its purity without the blending of inferior cottons,” Hayward said. “With our technology, retailers and brands can be confident that the products on their shelves are true to the label.”

The SigNature T platform verifies cotton fibers at various points along their journey from gin to finished product, including cotton picked domestically and shipped overseas for manufacturing. Points of verification include U.S. processing stations, where cotton is baled and given a unique bale ID; after the raw cotton has been spun into yarn; after the yarn has been woven, cut and sewn into home-textile products; and upon the finished product’s shipment back to the States.

That may seem like overkill, but when it comes to the comforters, pillow cases and shams in the national Wamsutta line, authenticity is everything – and you can’t be too careful, according to MeiLin Wan, Applied DNA’s vice president for textiles.

“We are pleased to help bring the new standard in Pima cotton purity to the marketplace, with a technology that guarantees product authenticity,” Wan said in a statement. “SigNature T is the solution that provides certainty not only for consumers, but also for retailers.

“In addition, U.S. farmers that grow cotton now have the knowledge that their cotton is protected throughout the supply chain.”

The Bed Bath & Beyond announcement comes less than a month after Applied DNA inked a lucrative deal to provide “bulk DNA” to an unnamed chemicals company serving the in vitro diagnostics market. It also follows the biotech’s long-term efforts to bulk up its bottom line through the creation of a major-league Strategic Advisory Board including energy industry titan Robert Catell, PepsiCo Vice Chairman Mehmood Kahn and former New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

The company has also recently announced a foray into the leather industry, where it will provide similar authentication services, and a significant capital infusion in the form of a $5 million stock deal with a “a single healthcare-dedicated institutional investor.”

Applied DNA is scheduled to report May 11 on the results of its Fiscal 2017 second quarter, which ended March 31.

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