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USDA's new GMO-free label refuses to even mention 'GMO'


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(NaturalNews) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is planning to introduce a new voluntary certification program to label foods free of genetically modified organisms (GMO), according to a leaked internal document obtained by the Associated Press. The move has been widely interpreted as an attempt to head off a growing movement for mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients.

Foods certified under the new USDA procedure would be "allowed" to claim that they are GMO free (something that is already permitted on food labels), and would also carry a label reading "USDA Process Verified."

In other words, food manufacturers would pay the USDA to be allowed to add a label that doesn't even mention GMOs!

Provides no new service

According to a May 1 letter to agency employees by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the certification program is being created by the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service, which verifies agricultural claims on food packaging.

"Recently, a leading global company asked AMS to help verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered [GE] so that the company could label the products as such," Vilsack wrote in the letter. "AMS worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-GE claim."

Companies wishing to participate will pay the AMS to verify their non-GMO claims. The program "will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service," the letter says.

Following the letter being leaked, the USDA confirmed that the letter had been sent, but had no further comment on the program.

Voluntary GMO-free label verification is already provided in the United States by a nonprofit organization, the Non-GMO Project. In addition, foods certified USDA organic are not allowed to be genetically modified.

But many consumer advocates are pushing for the United States to join the ranks of countries that require the labeling of GMOs on food ingredient labels. This would help consumers realize how prevalent GMOs are in the food they eat, they say. For example, nearly all corn and soybeans grown in the United States are GMO, and corn and soy derivatives are found in nearly all processed foods.

An effort to block mandatory labeling

Because the federal government has resisted efforts to label GMO ingredients, labeling proponents have instead supported GMO labeling measures in various states. Last year, Vermont became the first state to pass a law requiring that GMOs be labeled. The law is due to take effect in 2016.

According to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, two-thirds of U.S. residents support labeling GMO ingredients. Many of these respondents were more concerned about making the food industry accountable than about personally avoiding GMOs.

Another recent poll, this one by Pew Research, found that 57 percent of U.S. residents believe GMO foods are generally unsafe to eat. Two-thirds said that scientists do not understand the full health effects of GMOs.

In an effort to block mandatory GMO labeling efforts like Vermont's, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. introduced a House bill that would override any state labeling laws, replacing them with a voluntary labeling program.

The new USDA program is a part of the same anti-labeling playbook, some critics said. Its voluntary nature might also confuse consumers, they warned, since not all GMO-free products would be labeled as such.

Gary Hirshberg, chairman of the Just Label It campaign and co-founder Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt company, said that the USDA label was progress in the right direction, but that mandatory labeling needs to be the ultimate destination.

"Mandatory labeling of GMOs would allow consumers to vote with their dollars and have a say in the type of agriculture they would like to see in this country," Hirshberg said







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