US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, also known as Monsanto’s errand boy, sent a letter to media outlets on May 1st of this year stating that the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has, for a long time now, offered a Process Verified non-GMO label to food manufacturers. In the least, the claim has kicked up some dust to make understanding the USDA non-GM label claims a little difficult to see through.
Vilsack points to the USDA’s website, stating it “provides companies that supply agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent quality products or services,” with a Process Verified Seal. But this only requires companies to submit internal documentation on their goods or services – there is no outside inquiry into any claims they make.
So, essentially, the USDA certifies a company’s own internal practices based on their paper trail. For the first time, a company has sought the USDA’s Process Verified Label in connection for a product it sells, with a desire to claim non-GMO status.
There is no USDA non-GMO status that is externally vetted. A company could claim that the sky is made of Oreos and cottage cheese if they wanted to – as long as the ‘documentation’ from inside the company claims it is so – the USDA would have to issue this “Process Verified” label. That’s why last week, Natural Society launched a petition to keep the USDA in check. Posted with the headline “Don’t Let the USDA Ruin GMO Labeling,” we have already received around a thousand signatures demanding the agency bring in real testing protocols for their supposed labels.
An excerpt from the petition reads:
“The USDA has officially announced that it will soon be rolling out their new ‘Non-GMO labels’ worldwide. This is an organization that has admittedly given Monsanto ‘fast track approval‘ with less safety testing for their latest GMO crops. Now is the time to hold the USDA accountable for their Non-GMO labels, and to demand that the agency recruits the help of independent scientific agencies to verify the accuracy of these labels.”
If anything, Vilsack’s letter only confuses consumers who are already being lied to about what food contains, and makes it more difficult for them to know if they are eating a genetically modified organism.
The USDA offers no transparency in how they determine if a company gets their ‘special’ label, and there is no third party testing. Add to this mess, that any company can claim “GMO-free” under the AMS ‘rules’ and you’ve got one confounding tangle of an already heated labeling issue.
According to the Non-GMO Project:
“This news is being largely confused with the program proposed in H.R. 1599, commonly known as “the DARK Act.” Under this pending bill, the USDA would actually create its own non-GMO certification program and corresponding non-GMO label. The deeply flawed bill would also override states’ rights to require mandatory labels on genetically engineered products. Consumer advocates are doing everything possible to stop this bill, and we are optimistic it will be defeated.”
For now, the only non-GMO label in the marketplace based on third-party verification to transparent, consistent standards continues to be the Non-GMO Project butterfly. If you don’t see this symbol on a food product, don’t assume it is non-GMO, unless of course, you grew it yourself.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.