August 12th 2017
USDA Organic. Gluten Free Certified. Non-GMO Project Verified. Cruelty-free. Vegetarian. Vegan. Paleo. Sugar-free. Fat-free. Allergy free. And, more.
Food today sports all sorts of labels. And, labels don’t stop at food. Dietary supplements, cosmetics, and sometimes even clothes are rocking some of these. But, what do they mean?
Most we’ve been familiar with for a while. But one has recently emerged in our collective conscious. Non-GMO.
What is Non-GMO?
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism.”
This is usually a plant, animal, or microorganism created from the genes altered by scientists. These GMOs are then crossed genetically with plants to produce crops that resist pesticides and herbicides, produce much larger yields, and stay fresh longer. More food=fewer hungry people. Right?
Genetically engineering the DNA of a plant can lead to some risks. Because scientists can’t accurately predict where the genes will go or what they’ll do, this could potentially have negative results—like toxins or allergens in foods. Genetic altering can also lead to less nutritious foods.
Are organic and non-GMO the same thing?
USDA Organic certification and Non-GMO Project seals both provide consumers information about how a product was produced, however, the Non-GMO Project doesn’t monitor for pesticides, antibiotics, and artificial flavors and colors. Potentially a product could be labeled as Non-GMO Project Verified, but may still not qualify as USDA Organic.
Organic vs. Non-GMO Labels:
Understanding food labels can be key to shopping with the confidence of a seasoned pro.
- Conventional or Unlabeled: These products can’t be labeled as either USDA Organic nor non-GMO. This could be a situation in which the farm or food producer is organic or non-GMO but hasn’t completed their certification yet. Or, this could be genetically modified food using hormones and artificial flavors. Do your research.
- USDA Organic: The National Organic Program is regulated by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Certified organic products have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity in accordance with USDA organic regulations.In other words, organic operations must maintain or enhance soil and water quality, while also conserving wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife. And, they can’t use synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering.
- Non-GMO: The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization providing consumer education and outreach programs about GMOs, providing marketing support to Non-GMO Project Verified brands (in the form of a product label), and providing training for retailers and consumers. To receive the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, food producers participate in an optional three- to six-month verification process with the organization.
How do I know if something contains GMOs?
More than 60 countries worldwide—including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the EU—require GMOs be labeled. And, 27 countries have banned all GMO plants and foods from being produced in-country (though the information on imports can be a bit fuzzy).1
In 2016, the U.S. passed a law that makes GMO labeling mandatory. Pro-GMO and anti-GMO advocates anxiously await the final program, as the USDA has two years to finalize the execution of the law.
What products are most likely to be genetically modified?
The most common genetically modified products include:
- Vitamins and supplements sweetened with corn syrup
GMO is an important—and sometimes contentious—topic. Do your research and be your own advocate.