If something is non-GMO, is it organic? If something is organic, is it non-GMO? We explain.
From the corn in cereal to the soy lecithin in chocolate, an estimated 80 percent of processed American foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). What’s more, the United States does not require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. The USDA Organic label, however, excludes GMO ingredients. Although the certification is stringently enforced, limitations exist, say critics.
Why? There is no mandatory testing of raw or finished products under National Organic Program (NOP) standards, because organic farming is based upon a process-by-process model. If farmers take the required steps to prevent GMO contamination—such as implementing “buffer zones” next to GMO fields, delayed or early planting to obtain different flowering times for organic and GMO crops, and using properly-cleaned farm equipment—testing is theoretically not needed. But complex supply chains and the ubiquity of GMO farming increase the possibility of contamination.
The Non-GMO Project has partially alleviated these anxieties by offering the Non-GMO Project verification for finished products. But choosing USDA Organic is still one of the best ways to avoid eating GMOs, say experts. Certifying agents conduct 30,000 on-site inspections per year to verify manufacturers meet GMO precautions and do not use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, and irradiation.