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USDA Tackles GMO Labeling

5/19/2015, 12:22 p.m.
The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.
A genetically engineered potato poking through the soil of a planting pot inside J.R. Simplot's lab in southwestern Idaho.

(AP) - The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients.

USDA's move comes as some consumer groups push for mandatory labeling of the genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The certification is the first of its kind, would be voluntary - and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a "USDA Process Verified" label along with a claim that they are free of GMOs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined the new certification in a May 1 letter to USDA employees.

Companies can already put their own GMO-free labels on foods, but there are no government labels that only certify a food as GMO-free. Many companies use a private label developed by a nonprofit called the Non-GMO Project. The USDA organic label also certifies that foods are free of genetically modified ingredients, but many non-GMO foods aren't organic.