The New York TimesThe New York Times

How AI and DNA are unlocking the mysteries of global supply chains

By Ana Swanson

09 Apr 2023 · 6 min read

Editor's Note

The NYT reports on how companies are utilizing AI, blockchain, and DNA tracking to ensure responsible sourcing. It's a response to growing demand for transparency in global supply chains.

At a cotton gin in the San Joaquin Valley, in California, a boxy machine helps to spray a fine mist containing billions of molecules of DNA onto freshly cleaned Pima cotton.

That DNA will act as a kind of minuscule bar code, nestling amid the puffy fibers as they are shuttled to factories in India. There, the cotton will be spun into yarn and woven into bedsheets, before landing on the shelves of Costco stores in the United States. At any time, Costco can test for the DNA’s presence to ensure that its American-grown cotton hasn’t been replaced with cheaper materials — like cotton from the Xinjiang region of China, which is banned in the United States because of its ties to forced labor.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content