USDA Leaked Letter Suggests Non-GMO Program On The Way
Washington, D.C.-The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create definition for "non-GMO" foods and a voluntary program for "non-GMO" labeling.
In its comments to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), AHPA said it agrees with a statement made by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack during a March 2015 workshop. He stated "[Consumers] have a right to know about their food, where it's grown, the impact of its production on the land, how it will impact their health and how it was cultivated." AHPA believes that this should apply to GMOs.
AHPA feels that creating a federal regulation for voluntary diclosing non-GMO ingredients is the best way to go. AHPA says voluntary labeling, such as that used for organic products, has been very successful and "a similar approach to labeling foods that meet a federally-defined standard as 'non-GMO'would meet consumer demand to be able to ensure that the products they actually use are free of GMO ingredients." The group also put forth the opinions that the two labeling programs could coexist.
In addition, AHPA believes more can be done mitigate the risk of gene drift, whereby a genetically engineered seed carries through water or wind and cross-polliates with non-GMO crops. The group feels more should be done to prevent this danger. AHPA stated "adequate measures, such as buffer zones or windbreaks, should be required on farms on which GMO crops are cultivated and that these farms should be responsible to ensure that such measures are sufficient to prevent unintended GMO drift beyond the farm’s boundaries."
Meanwhile, The Associated Press says it acquired a May 1 letter send by Vilsack to USDA employees indicating that the agency is creating a non-GMO labeling program through the Agriculture Marketing Service. Companies that pay for a non-GMO claim to be verified will be able to use a special USDA seal upon approval. The memo reportedly indicated that the program is being developed at the request of an unnamed "leading global company."
Published on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 5/14/15, updated 5/18/15