USDA Plans for Voluntary GMO Certification and Labeling
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has devised a new, voluntary certification and labeling program for foods that are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
An official announcement has not been released yet. The program--created via the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS)--was outlined by agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter he sent to USDA employees earlier this month--a letter later obtained by The Associated Press. In it, Vilsack says that the certification and labeling program was at the request of what he called a “leading global company” that has yet to be identified.
"Recently, a leading global company asked AMS to help verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered so that the company could label the products as such," Vilsack wrote. "AMS worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-GE claim."
Even in the absence of a formal disclosure, the USDA has said that “other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”
If approved, this program--paid for by companies who choose to opt in--would display a “USDA Process Verified” label, along with a non-GMO statement. Although companies can already brand products with their own private GMO-free labels, there is currently no labeling that is endorsed nor supported by the government.
Critics of this type of labeling say that because companies have the option to choose whether or not they want to participate, it will cause more confusion since the new labels will appear on some foods, but not others. Their argument is that mandatory labeling of GMOs across the board would be more valuable in helping consumers to make better, more informed choices.