The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is developing voluntary food packaging labels for products free of genetically modified ingredients. In a letter to USDA employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the certification is being created at the request of an unnamed “leading global company.”

Before using the “USDA Process Verified” label, companies will have to pay the Agricultural Marketing Service to verify that their products are GMO-free. Many companies already use their own GMO-free labels or a private label developed by the nonprofit Non-GMO Project, but this USDA verification would be the first government-certified label of its kind.

The USDA label is similar to one advocated in a GOP House bill introduced earlier this year. The bill, which is strongly backed by the food industry, provides voluntary USDA certification and would override any state laws that require GMO labeling, such as Vermont’s. The state recently became the first to sign such a GMO labeling bill into law.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates are pushing for mandatory labels for genetically modified foods, claiming that the voluntary USDA labels are not sufficient and would lead to more confusion.

h/t: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/8930f4ff0d214eaf93143df83cb6f15c/usda-develops-first-government-label-gmo-free-products

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