I recently read an article discussing why the ‘Non-GMO’ label is organic’s frenemy. I had never looked at it that way before, but I definitely understand what they’re saying. I had always viewed the Organic and the Non-GMO Project Verified labels as friends, but now I see it a little differently.
What Does Organic Guarantee?
When shopping for food, I always look for the round USDA Organic seal on the label. It’s typically either green and white, or black and white. That seal on the label assures me of many things – no pesticides or herbicides used, no artificial preservatives, and no dyes to name a few! It also assures me, by organic standards, that the food has NOT been genetically modified.
Farmers go through a ton in regards to growing practices, time, paperwork and money in order to be able to use the USDA Organic seal on their products.
What Does the Non-GMO Project Verified Label Mean?
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization. They are “North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO (genetically modified organism) food and products”. In addition, their organization works to educate consumers and builds awareness about GMOs.
The Non-GMO Project Verified seal on a label indicates that the product has gone through their verification process assuring that “the product has been produced according to consensus-based best practices for GMO avoidance.”
It only tests for genetically modified ingredients, not for pesticides and herbicides. It also doesn’t have anything to do with limiting preservatives and dyes.
What is the Best Thing to Look For on the Label?
At this moment in time, many organic products cost more than products without that label. Unfortunately, organic farmers do not get the same government incentives that other farmers get. It is costly for them to produce their food and some of that cost is passed on to us as retailers.
Due to the fact that organic can cost more, some people are overlooking that label when they see the non-GMO Project Verified label.
If you have to choose one label over the other, I recommend choosing the USDA Organic label because of the other items you would avoid in addition to GMOs.
If you’re able to find both the Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified seals on a label, that is the best! As the Non-GMO Project website mentions, GMO seeds are not supposed to be planted if you are an organic farmer. However, from time to time with risk ingredients, there could be a possibility of cross contamination. The Non-GMO Project gives an added measure of testing at critical control points.
The short video below explains Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified in addition to the word ‘Natural’ on a label (for more information on Natural, click here). Please feel free to share the video with others who might not know the differences between labels.
Understanding food labels can be tricky. It’s best to do your research and educate yourself about products. Believe me, your body will thank you!
Read Next: Natural Does NOT Mean Organic!
The labeling can get so confusing. Thank you for clarifying this. I had thought that the organic label meant it had to be GMO free too. I didn’t realize it was on the honor system. I’m glad to see the GMO Project actually tests at key points. That is great news.
Hi Jessica – Thanks for stopping by. You’re right, food labels are confusing! Hopefully I didn’t confuse things more with this article:). According to organic standards, “synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.” Organic products are non-GMO. That’s why I recommend buying organic. However, as the non-GMO Project mentions, there are cases where there may be cross contamination in high risk foods like corn and soy (since so much of it is already GMO). Here’s a link to the non-GMO Project FAQ page (I’ve also added the link to my article above): http://www.nongmoproject.org/product-verification/faqs/. You might be interested to read the answer to the question “Why should I enroll in the Non-GMO Project if my products are already USDA Certified Organic?”. Hope this helps to explain things better!