Non-GMO Project responds to AP story on USDA seal

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — An Associated Press report on May 14 said the US Department of Agriculture has developed a way for companies to certify and label foods that are free of bioengineered/genetically modified ingredients. The report said it gained the information by obtaining a May 1 letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to USDA employees.

The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization, said the AP report misinterpreted parts of the letter. The reported USDA action may be related to a new twist on the USDA’s “Process Verified Seal,” which has been in use for years, according to The Non-GMO Project.

The USDA Process Verified Program provides companies that supply agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services, according to the USDA. The Non-GMO Project said that for the first time the USDA issued a “Process Verified Seal” in connection with a company’s non-bioengineered/non-GMO practices. The Non-GMO Project, based in Bellingham, Wash., offers its own third-party verification seal that is not connected to the government.

The AP report said in the letter Vilsack wrote that a “leading global company,” which he did not identify, asked the USDA to help verify that the corn and soybeans in its products are not bioengineered/genetically engineered. The letter further said the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service worked with the company to develop testing and verification processes to verify the non-bioengineered/non-GMO claim.

A USDA official declined to comment on the record. For more on the USDA Process Verified Program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/processverified.
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