In a memo to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees, Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is developing a non-GMO certification program. According to the Secretary, the program was established at the request of a leading global company which approached USDA to help verify that its product inputs were not genetically engineered. Few details of the voluntary certification program were disclosed, though the Secretary indicated the program will be announced soon.

Initial descriptions of the program appear similar to a component of federal legislation sponsored by Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo — H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 — which directs USDA to establish a non-GMO labeling certification program. AMS is expected to administer the voluntary verification program.

Products will undergo testing and verification, with the intent to assure “consumers that marketing claims made by food companies have been verified by an independent third-party.” This program would be the first non-GMO claim verified by USDA and would allow food products meeting (yet to be released) requirements to be labeled as “not containing bioengineered ingredients,” “GMO-free” or “non-GMO.”