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USDA approves voluntary GMO-free label

GMO Genetically Modified Organisms FDA food labels

(CNN) — The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recently approved a label for meat and liquid egg products that would inform consumers about whether the product contains genetically modified ingredients.

The approval marks the first time the department has approved a non-GMO label from a third party.

The verification seal comes from the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit organization “committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers and providing verified non-GMO choices.” The seal allows consumers to know if the animal product they’re about to consume was fed genetically engineered crops like soy, corn and alfalfa. (The FDA has not approved any genetically modified animals for the food supply, but some animals do eat GMO feed.)

Genetically modified foods were approved for human consumption in the United States in 1995, but the FDA never required them to be labeled as such.

The FDA responded to the Non-GMO Project’s labeling efforts in April: “The FDA supports voluntary labeling for food derived from genetic engineering. Currently, food manufacturers may indicate through voluntary labeling whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading.”

The USDA adopted the Non-GMO Project’s requirements, auditing process and standard. The USDA also must approve all labels before the product is delivered.

According to the Non-GMO Project website, label verification is also offered to entire restaurants and delis for select dishes and individual ingredients.

Chipotle Mexican Grill became the first fast food chain to voluntarily label menu items that contain GMOs; Whole Foods and Ben & Jerry’s have since followed suit.