The USDA has verified its first non-GMO claim under its Process Verified Program, according to a letter obtained by SN.
“While the Process Verified Program itself is not a new program, this is the first non- GMO/GE claim verified through USDA," wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a letter to employees. “It will be announced soon, and other companies are already lining up to take advantage of this service.”
Under the Process Verified Program, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service acts as a third party in verifying marketing claims, according to Sam Jones-Ellard, a spokesman with the AMS.
The USDA has not established standards for the use of non-GMO claims, rather it verifies that a producer or stakeholder is meeting its own standards when making a claim.
“Companies come to us and provide us with their claim or their standard and say we want you to verify that we’re meeting our own claim and standard,” Jones-Ellard explained, “so we go to the company and do audits and inspections and we verify that that company is meeting their own established claim or standard.”
The USDA worked with a “leading global company” to develop testing and verification processes to verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered, according to the letter.
Although the USDA’s organic certification program is also administered through the AMS, the two programs will remain separate, explained Jones-Ellard, meaning that even if a product has been certified organic, and is therefore GMO-free, its producer must go through a separate process to have its GMO-free claim verified by the USDA.
While it waits for more details about the program, the Food Marketing Institute, which in its policy statement supports a federal labeling standard for non-GMO products, reacted favorably to the development. "At FMI we’re delighted to see that [the USDA] is moving in that direction," Sue Borra, SVP of communications for FMI told SN.
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