Does organic mean non-GMO and is organic food safer and more nutritious?
With the health risks associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), organic products are gaining more popularity among consumers and producers. However, with the anti-GMO labeling policies in America, even if you shop at a local organic store, you need to rely on your eyes and read the labels carefully.
Many of our readers have asked: Does organic mean GMO free?
If a product has “USDA Certified Organic” label on its package, then it is usually non-GMO. However, the following classifications are used for organic products:
This is the ONLY label used for products that are made with 100% GMO-free and 100% organic ingredients. If a product is labeled “100% organic”, then all the ingredients including even salt must be organic and non-GMO.
Certified USDA Organic:
A product is USDA certified organic, if 95% of its ingredients (by weight) are organic. The remaining 5% could have synthetic additives and preservatives but it’s among substances that are approved by USDA. Here are the lists of substances that are allowed or banned in USDA list. USDA organic are usually GMO-free and here is the policy memorandum of USDA about questions or concerns regarding the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) under the U.S. National Organic Standards.
Made with Organic Ingredients or Contains Organic Ingredients:
This means that up to 70% of the ingredients in the product are organic. However, these products cannot use USDA Certified Organic label and are NOT usually non-GMO. In other words, they do most certainly contain some GMO ingredients.
As I mentioned, 95% of the ingredients in a product should be organic for a product to be sealed as USDA Certified Organic.
So, the question is how about the other 5%?
Well, that answer could very well depend on the product.
USDA has listed two common ingredients including non-organic soy lecithin and non-organic cornstarch in the acceptable list. There are other surprises in the USDA organic list and that’s use of antibiotics in organic apples and pear in order to control fire blight. However, according to OrganicConsumers.org, there are other ways to control fire blight without using antibiotics. In fact, U.S. growers exporting to the European Union (E.U.) comply with the E.U. rule that says apples and pears must be produced without antibiotics to be sold as organic.
There is also GMO contamination …
USDA Organic Certification mostly considers the process of growing food (no use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics) and NOT the final product. Recently, USDA approved GMO alfalfa that is pollinated by insects. So, there is a chance that organic crops could have been contaminated with GMO ingredients via cross-pollination, winds, insects and birds.
In fact, with all the restrictions on export or growing GMOs in many countries, GMOs are sneaking into their food supply. For example, between the years 2006 and 2007, three varieties of unapproved GM rice owned by Bayer CropScience sneaked into the US commercial rice exports in more than 30 different countries.
Also, recently, Oregon farmers suffered depressed prices of wheat due to discovery of illegal GM wheat resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup. Shortly after countries like South Korea, Japan and EU banned the import of US wheat. Other countries including Denmark, Peru and Venezuela are also joining 30 other countries that have already banned GMOs.
Is there another way to avoid GMOs besides buying certified organic?
Another way to avoid GM foods is to look for products that have been certified by Non-GMO project. However, as the threats of GMOs grow, there are no guarantees that products with non-GMO project label are 100% GMO free. However, be aware that non-GMO project label doesn’t mean that the product is organic whereas USDA certified organic means that up to 95% of the ingredients in the product are both organic and GMO free.
Buy Certified Organic anyways:
As explained, purchasing certified organic might not be perfect and could have its own flaws, but at this point, buying “USDA Certified Organic” is one of best and most effective ways to avoid GMOs and other toxins. You might see other non-GMO labels on the products, but at this point, there are no other certified programs. So, consumers should be aware that other non-GMO labels are based on the producer’s verification of his/her products.
How about Natural labels?
The definition of “Natural” on a product doesn’t mean ANYTHING and has no legal meaning since non-organic producers cannot label their products as USDA organic. Any product you see that uses the terms “All-Natural” or “Natural” could have pesticides and GMO ingredients.
According to organicconsumers.org, organic foods have higher level of nutrients like beta carotene, powerful antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids and flavonoids.
Organic foods are also safer than GMO and conventional foods:
Recently we wrote an article about systemic pesticides and how they cannot be washed off from foods and they remain inside the plant’s tissues. Also, more than 400 chemicals are used in conventional farming and neonicotinoid group of pesticides also known as endocrine disrupters are linked to cancer and asthma and colony collapse of bees.
Organic farming also prohibits use of rBGH growth hormones linked to early puberty and breast and prostate cancer. Free range meat is from organic animals that are not fed on manure, byproducts of corn ethanol production, and arsenic. Eating organic reduces the chances of Alzheimer’s and human version of mad cow disease.
Organic foods are not also fertilized with toxic sewage sludge or coal waste and contain less illness inducing bacteria like salmonella. Click here to find out the top 10 reasons why organic foods are cheaper than GMO and conventional foods.
Resources:Welcome to the National Organic Program