WASHINGTON, Dec. 9, 2015 - USDA is overhauling its Process Verified Program (PVP) with an eye to handling a flood of requests for certifying non-GMO food labels. The Agricultural Marketing Service is consolidating PVP into a single administrative structure to ensure that the management and implementation is consistent across all commodities.

Craig Morris, deputy administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, says the overhaul is being done in part because of a “whole host” of requests for verification of non-GMO labeling and because Congress is considering legislation that would require AMS to set standards for non-GMO products.

AMS has been administering PVP through its existing commodity-based division structure, and the different divisions have had different procedures, employees and even fee structures for handling PVP petitions, Morris said. Beef and pork, for example, are handled by a different division than poultry or fruits and vegetables.

“It would be unrealistic for a consumers to look at the exact same (PVP) shield and not expect that company went through the exact same process” for each product, Morris tells Agri-Pulse.

SunOpta Inc., a non-GMO corn and soybean supplier, earlier this year became the first company to receive PVP verification for a non-GMO product. AMS is getting petitions for non-GMO verification on a number of other commodities, including canned produce, soy milk, and a processing aid for yogurt. AMS also has been asked to verify antibiotic usage practices across a range of products that cross its traditional divisional lines, Morris said.

As part of the overhaul, AMS also will be requiring companies to clearly define, in layman’s terms, all of the marketing claims and verified processes that USDA is certifying. The information will be posted on the USDA website.

In a new blog post aimed at explaining the PVP process to consumers, Morris says USDA is “committed to the transparency and accountability of our auditing services, so that consumers and buyers can make informed decisions about the products they purchase.”


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