Del Monte Foods recently received process verification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the company’s non-GMO program for sweetcorn production and processing.
The USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) verifies that Del Monte’s sweetcorn products are non-GMO and meet Del Monte Foods, Inc.’s standard of 0.9 percent or less of incidental genetically modified materials. Eight Del Monte sweetcorn processing and labeling facilities in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and California received PVP verification.
According to the USDA, the PVP assures buyers that a producer has embraced quality management system standards to support a specific processing point in the production process, and that these quality management systems have been verified as reliable by an independent, onsite, third-party audit conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Unlike other non-GMO certification/verification programs, the PVP does not have a non-GMO standard; it verifies a company’s internal non-GMO or identity preservation program.
“Wanted unassailable outside body” to affirm non-GMO status
Loren Druz, R&D director at Del Monte Foods, said his company wanted third-party assurance of the company’s sweetcorn. “Because processing corn is predominantly genetically modified, Del Monte wanted to have an unassailable outside body affirm that our sweetcorn is non-GMO,” he said.
The verification process took about a year. “There was a significant dedicated effort from Del Monte’s quality assurance, agricultural operations, operations, and research and developments teams and a high level of cooperation with the USDA,” Druz said.
The process had its challenges. “There were many challenges including working with the USDA collaboratively to understand Del Monte Food’s entire quality program, finding and utilizing accurate non-GMO analytical procedures with a quick turn around and reasonable costs, and putting plans in place rapidly to be qualified for this year’s pack,” Druz said.
The PVP verified Del Monte’s identity preservation program for GMO avoidance. The program includes strict agricultural protocols that define the location and time of planting of fields and that automatically exclude at-risk rows in fields that could be subject to cross pollination by winds from GMO fields.
The program includes GMO testing. “PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are regularly used to definitively confirm non-GMO status of Del Monte’s corn products,” Druz said.
Produces 400 million pounds of sweetcorn
Del Monte works with more than 300 growers in Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The farmers grow more than 400 million pounds of sweetcorn on over 20,000 acres to be designated as non-GMO for the Del Monte label.
Del Monte products containing the sweetcorn will be labeled “Non-GMO.”
Last spring, Del Monte announced a significant commitment to offering non-GMO products. By the end of this year, all added ingredients in all Del Monte vegetables, fruit cups, and most tomato products will be non-GMO, representing a majority of its product line—154 products in total. Many Del Monte products are now labeled “Non-GMO.”