Anyone who's been in a grocery store lately can attest: There's a label for almost everything these days. Fat-free, natural, cage-free, organic, sugar-free...the mind-numbing list goes on.
But although the chorus from consumer groups and informed shoppers has been getting louder, there's been no national move to label GMOs. State initiatives have stalled, and large food conglomerates have successfully lobbied to keep their ingredients under a veil of secrecy.
Until now. A new GMO label has arrived, and it comes from a surprising source: the federal government.
Although the feds have long claimed that GMO ingredients are just as safe for consumption as their organic counterparts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has changed its tune. The federal agency has developed a new "USDA Process Verified" certification for GMO-free foods, which would mean products that carry the label would have to be verified, much like the process for the popular USDA Organic label, reports the Associated Press.
Genetically modified crops make up about half of the total farmland in the United States, so that means the pool of eligible products is limited. But it could prove lucrative for companies trying to attract conscience consumers: a 2013 NYT poll found that 93 percent of Americans believe GMO foods should be labeled. Accordingly, manufacturers interested in getting the first-of-its-kind label would have to pay for it. (To be awarded the USDA Organic label, companies also have to pay a set of fees.)
In a bizarre twist, the USDA isn't taking credit for the idea. The Associated Press reported that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told USDA employees that a "leading global company" requested the certification.
"Recently, a leading global company asked AMS [the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service] to help verify that the corn and soybeans it uses in its products are not genetically engineered so that the company could label the products as such," Vilsack said in a letter obtained by the AP.
Photo credit: Rastoney via Flickr