The U.S. Department of Agriculture is creating a government certification process and labeling for foods that makers want to claim are free of genetically modified organisms (GMO) or ingredients. The certification program will be voluntary. Companies that wish to carry a USDA label would have to pay for the certification.
The label would read "USDA Process Verified" alongside the claim that they do not contain any GMOs, which are foods that come from seeds or other organisms that were bioengineered or genetically modified to contain certain traits. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified. Corn and soybeans are used as animal feeds and in very common ingredients in processed food products.
The new certification was outlined to USDA employees in a letter from Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. The letter stated that the new certification and labeling was being done at the request of a company, but did not identify the company. He added that other companies are expected to use the certification.
Consumer groups have been petitioning for a mandatory government GMO labeling process for some time. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA say that foods containing GMOs are safe. Consumer groups want a mandatory label, which would give consumers a choice if they wish to avoid GMOs.
Many companies already state that their products are GMO-free or non-GMO, but neither the USDA nor any other government entity certifies such a label. The USDA offers a certification that a food is organic, which would include being non-GMO, but the new labeling could be used for products that are GMO-free, but not organic.
The certification process will be created by the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS). AMS will be paid by companies to certify their products once this process is in place. The service already has certifications processes that allow companies to label products as being organic or containing no antibiotics.