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New USDA Label Will Clearly Identify 'Organic' Foods

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"For the first time, there will be consistent standards and labeling for all organic products marketed in the United States. No longer will there be questions concerning what 'organic' stands for, or whether the process has been certified," DiMatteo added Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Still, not everyone will find the new USDA label to be all that appetizing. Traditional food makers and the biotech industry have spent considerable time, money, and effort protesting the creation of this new label because they fear consumers will view the label as a mark of quality.

The USDA label lends support to those seeking to belittle foods derived from other, demonstrably safe production methods such as genetic engineering, explained the Biotechnology Industry Organization in an earlier statement.

Nevertheless, the rules demonstrate that Americans really do have a choice, says the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), the world's largest association of food, beverage, and consumer product makers.

"We just want the USDA to now monitor consumers' response to ensure that the label isn't misleading," GMA spokesman Peter Clearly tells WebMD. "We support the establishment of standards for what qualifies as organic, but are concerned that consumers might see the label as an endorsement," he explains.

The rules, which the USDA was required to develop by a 1990 congressional law, were first proposed in 1997. The USDA withdrew that proposal after receiving several hundred thousand public comments, mostly criticizing the proposed label and the USDA's definition of organic foods.

The final rules are now one of Glickman's last acts as head of the USDA. Speaking at a recent meeting, Glickman said the final rules represented the end of a heated debate that helped mark his six years in office.

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