GMO Labeling And Certification Program Is Underway At USDA

GMO food labeling and certification is in the works. Genetically modified food products are getting more attention from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The USDA recently developed a voluntary government labeling and certification program for any food that contains genetically modified ingredients. This step by the USDA is the first of its kind.

Companies who choose to use the GMO-free labeling on their food products will be required to pay for the approval and certify that their claims are accurate.

The USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) is creating the certification and labeling process. Companies that market GMO-free food can voluntarily get approval by the USDA, and then purchase a “USDA Process Verified” label to place on their products, verifying their claim.

The Agriculture Department Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the plan in a May 1 letter to the department’s employees. Vilsack said the certification process was initiated in response to a request from a “leading global company,” according to a report by the Associated Press.

The following is an excerpt from Vilsack’s letter sent to the entire USDA workforce.

“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. AMS worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-GE claim.”

Department Secretary Tom Vilsack added a comment about the initial response to the USDA’s GMO certification initiative.

“Companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”

Currently, there are no labels for GMO-free food. In fact, the USDA claims GMOs marketed in the U.S. are safe for public consumption. Nonetheless, many consumer advocates demand the right to know what is in the food they purchase.

Mandatory labeling helps in satisfying the right to know, since the effects of GMO technology are still uncertain and questionable. However, the food industry is up in arms about mandatory labeling, claiming labeling is misleading to consumers — alleging GMOs are unsafe.

Genetically modified foods come from seeds that are engineered in a laboratory. Most of the U.S. corn and soybeans are genetically modified to act as herbicides, or weed killers. GMOs also help to deter and repel insects from damaging crops. The majority of these crops are used to feed cattle, pigs, chicken, and other farm animals.

Today, most companies that have GMO-free food products on the market use a private label obtained from the non-profit group called Non-GMO Project.

The entire food labeling controversy is changing. However, the jury is still out on whether GMOs are safe. Nevertheless, until food distributers place proper labels on the food products they market in stores throughout the U.S., GMO foods remain in the marketplace, creating uncertainty for the majority of conscientious shoppers.

[Featured image via David Silverman/Getty Images]