The Non-GMO Project verified seal is appearing on a growing number of food prod­ucts. Sales of Non-GMO Project verified products increased 66 percent in 2012, topping $2.4 bil­lion in sales—and that doesn’t even include sales of Whole Foods Market’s branded products that are non-GMO verified.

Does non-GMO threaten organic? 

As the Non-GMO Project logo appears on more and more gro­cery shelves, some mem­bers of the organic food community express con­cerns that non-GMO will hurt sales of organic foods.

“The non-GMO label threatens the USDA Organic label,” says Greg Lickteig, direc­tor, The Scoular Company, which sells organic and non-GMO grains. “Given two prod­ucts on the grocery store shelf, one being non-GMO and the other organic, the non-GMO prod­uct will most cer­tainly be less expensive.”

Rakesh Raniga, president, Indianlife Foods, which sells both organic and Non-GMO Project ver­i­fied products, agrees. “Non-GMO verified products will be less costly, there­fore some con­sumers may choose them over organic.”

Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain, a sup­plier of organic and non-GMO grains, also sees non-GMO competing with organic. “Yes, I think that a non-GMO label will com­pete with the USDA organic label for buyers’ food dollars,” he says. “I do not have a sense of how much damage it will do. The best way to avoid GMOs is to buy foods graced with the USDA organic label.”

However, he also says that a non-GMO label could be a stepping stone to more organic demand. “If inter­est in a non-GMO label sensitizes buyers to the consequences of farmers widely using pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, such devel­op­ment might actually increase demand for certified organic foods.”

The Organic Trade Association hasn’t looked at any possible impact of the Non-GMO Project on organic, says Laura Batcha, executive vice pres­i­dent of the Organic Trade Association. However, she says OTA surveys show increas­ing aware­ness and concern about GMOs among organic consumers. “The num­ber of par­ents that cite avoiding GMOs as a rea­son to eat organics rose to 22%, up from 17% in 2011,” Batcha says. “We take that as a positive indication that consumers see GMOs as a core reason to purchase organic.”