Is Organic Always GMO Free?

Organic is Usually GMO Free

Buying 100% Organic, certified Organic, and USDA Organic-labeled products is usually the easiest way to identify and avoid genetically modified ingredients.

The United States and Canadian governments do NOT allow companies to label products “100% / Certified Organic” if they contain genetically modified foods.

To put it in more detail:

100% Organic: Must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). This is the only label that certifies a completely organic product AND completely GMO-free ingredients.

Certified Organic / USDA Organic: At least 95 percent of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt). The <5% remaining ingredients must consist of substances approved on the USDA’s National List. GMOs are NOT on this list, so USDA Organic products are also usually GMO-free. For verification, consult the following sources:

Made with Organic: Up to 70% of the ingredients are organic. These products can NOT carry a “USDA organic” label, however their “remaining non-organic ingredients are produced without prohibited practices, including genetic engineering.”

But lately, even organic products are at risk….

Why Say “Usually?”

If USDA certification requires at least 95% of content to be organic, and a GMO ingredient can’t be included in that 5%, then USDA Organic is GMO-free, right? Not always. Depending on the product, sometimes there are tiny loopholes.

Says Barry Estabrook (author of Politics of the Plate) in this excellent article: “The casings for those tasty USDA Organic sausages can come from conventionally raised animals that have been fed antibiotics (or GMO-laden corn). The hops in your favorite organic beer can be sprayed with all manner of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.”

The USDA’s loophole list also includes two far more common ingredients: non-organic cornstarch (which in our opinion is long overdue for removal from the “acceptable” list, considering how many sources of organic cornstarch are now readily available to commercial food manufacturers), and soy lecithin (though only one form of soy lecithin is allowed, and only when an organic option is not available).

The loophole list includes a few surprises too, such as the use of antibiotics on organic apples and pears, in order to prevent fire blight. Fortunately the National Organics Standards Board recently decided to disallow this practice effective October 2014.

How are these organic loopholes possible? Typically it’s because there is no readily available, commercially manufactured organic option for that particular product or ingredient (though in the case of organic cornstarch, we beg to differ). If you’re curious to know more, here’s a great article that describes how these decisions get made.

But sometimes there’s another reason… says Barry: “The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which has the power to determine what materials can — and cannot — be used in organic production, too often weakens regulations in the face of intense lobbying by corporations who are more interested in the higher profits conferred by the word “organic” than in strong and meaningful standards.” And let’s just remember how much Monsanto has invested in corporate lobbying dollars…

Getting discouraged yet? There’s more…

Despite rigid organic certification procedures, organic certification is about the *process* of growing food, not about the actual resulting food. There is no testing process for organic ingredients, so there is a chance that GMO contamination could occur.

And sadly, GMO contamination can happen any number of natural ways: 1.) via cross-pollination between GMO and non-GMO crops, 2.) from trace amounts of GMO ingredients found in animal feed (as per the alfalfa/bluegrass section above), 3.) from seeds traveling by wind or by migratory birds that take root in the soil of an organic farm, and 4.) from ingredient suppliers that co-mingle various sources.

Just look at this recent response from the USDA regarding a series of questions raised by organic farmers after GMO alfalfa was approved. A similar situation is already happening in Australia— a farmer just lost his organic certification due to wind-borne contamination from a neighboring GMO crop.

Even more sobering is the potential contamination from genetically engineered Kentucky Bluegrass. This grass is used in animal forage — including grass-fed animals. Now that Kentucky Bluegrass been genetically engineered for RoundUp resistance, not only does it contain genetic material that is no longer natural, but it can be heavily sprayed with RoundUp to remove weeds. And because grass spreads rapidly, it’s only a matter of time before this becomes the next superweed.

Last but not least, “contamination” can also happen when it takes nearly three years for a manufacturer who illegally uses the term “organic” in their labeling to be noticed, reported, investigated, and forced to amend their label. The oversight of organic manufacturers “falls far short of assuring standards are met.”

Buying USDA Organic / GMO Free

As explained above, buying USDA Organic is by no means a failsafe. However at this point in time, USDA Organic remains one of the best and most easily-identifiable ways of assuring that you are eating GMO-free foods most of the time.

Want to take it one step further? Buy products that are also certified by the Non-GMO Project. The certification process behind this label is currently the best possible way of assuring that you are eating GMO-free food (though bear in mind, not all of the products bearing the Non-GMO Project label are organic—for the best of both worlds, chose products that also include the USDA Organic label).

Sadly however, just like organic certification, the word “usually” once again comes into play: the Non-GMO Project’s website clearly states that its label does not guarantee a product is 100% GMO-free, because contamination is an ever-growing threat. So what does the label really mean?

GMO Free Certification Process

When you see the above label on a product, it means the producer took additional time, effort and money to go through a certification program similar to the one used to obtain organic certification, only it’s designed to focus on GMO-free processes.

Started initially by retailers, the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program (PVP)‘s core requirements include “traceability, segregation, and testing at critical control points.” Compliant products bear the Non-GMO Project Seal shown above (explained in detail here), indicating that the product has been produced in accordance with the best practices of the Non-GMO Project Standard.

Read a great article about the reasons why this program was started, despite similar process testing procedures for organic products.

GMO Guard logoAnother GMO Free Certification Process

Those of you who are familiar with Natural Food Certifiers“Apple K Kosher” certification process / label will be happy to know that the organization now offers their own non-GMO verification program and label, called GMO Guard. Announced in 2013, NFC’s program “meets the no-GMO verification needs for the entire food chain from farm to table, is designed to be as clear and easy to navigate as possible, and remain affordable.”

Other GMO Free Labels

When you see a “GMO free” label on an organic product, how does it compare to certified organic or certified Non-GMO Project standards? Hard to say.

Because there is no certification program associated with this label, it is simply the producer’s word that all fields, ingredients, processes, and storage avoid contact with, and contain no genetically modified ingredients.

This doesn’t mean this label isn’t valid; sometimes producers can’t afford the cost of becoming certified organic or certified through the Non-GMO Project, and thus use this label as a sign of good faith.

And because so many consumers don’t know that Certified Organic = GMO free (I didn’t, until I did the research), it can be a more obvious and affordable way of letting customers know.

No label in sight? Sometimes you need to read the fine print: some manufacturers don’t include a little GMO free icon, but they do include the words “we don’t use genetically engineered ingredients” (or similar wording) on the back of their labeling (hope you brought your reading glasses to the grocery store). 🙂

Organic versus Certified Naturally Grown

When the USDA Organic program started in 2002, many small farms were forced to make a difficult choice: either pay high certification fees and complete mounds of paperwork to become “Certified Organic,” or give up using the word “organic” to describe their produce and/or livestock.

Believing that neither choice was very attractive, a group of farmers created Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), to provide an alternative way to assure their customers that they observed strict growing practices. Their methods include using natural biological cycles – incorporating a careful balance of micro-organisms, soil flora and fauna, natural pollinators, plants and animals – to create a sustainable farming system.

The resulting products meet and in some cases exceed the USDA standards but do not carry any of the official government approved organic seals. CNG now consists of more than 500 member farms in 47 states and growing.

Note: the majority of the CNG producers (farms and apiaries) that I perused included the words “GMO free” in their product descriptions.

Other “Natural” Product Labeling Terms

Additional labeling terms – such as Natural, Cage Free, Free Range, Certified Humane (raised and handled), Vegetarian Diet, Fair Trade, and Locally Grown – have no direct relevance to whether a product is GMO free (genetically modified vegetables can and do get used in animal feed sometimes… particularly corn fed to pigs, cows and chickens).

For a helpful description about each of these, click here.

For a helpful ranking chart about egg labeling in particular, click here.

The Even Longer Story Behind GMOs and Organics
(includes excerpts from The Organic and Non GMO Report website)

To have a product certified as organic, a producer/manufacturer/farmer must undergo third party verification to ensure that the requirements of USDA National Organic Program are met. These requirements certify the process of growing the crop (they do not test the resulting crops/food). Processes that are reviewed include:

• All production methods — which must be free from most synthetic chemicals (e.g. pesticides, herbicides & fertilizers, antibiotics & hormones), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and use of biosolids;

• All farmlands — which must be free from synthetic chemicals for generally 3 or more years;

• Storage procedures — producers must keep strict physical separation of organic products and non-certified products

• On-site inspections — producers are subject to initial (and sometimes subsequent) inspections.

Want to read an even more detailed description about organic certification? click here.

Organic certifiers want to ensure that GMOs are not used in organic products, but getting 100 percent verification that all substances are non-GMO may not be possible. Apparently the effort is significant, and requiring 100 percent verification could grind a processor’s operation to a halt.

Due to a lack of guidance from US National Organic Program (NOP), organic certifiers have developed their own methods to address GMO challenges posed by non-organic ingredients (for that <5% of non-organic ingredients allowed in foods labeled organic).

Oregon Tilth Certified Organic and CCOF developed flowcharts or “decision trees” to evaluate the GM status of ingredients. Quality Assurance International (QAI) developed a GMO Declaration that it asks clients to submit to verify the non-GMO status of ingredients.

Says Gwendolyn Wyard, Oregon Tilth’s processing program reviewer, “The problem is that “organic” is a process certification. We’re asking whether they use GMOs, not whether there is GM DNA or protein in the final product.”

Verifying the non-GM status of some ingredients can be challenging. For example, the supply of the ingredient tocopherol/Vitamin E has been controlled by one or two companies who collected soybean oil from many co-mingled sources. Oregon Tilth requires that tocopherols come from an identity preserved, non-GM source, but Quality Assurance International (QAI) does not require an IP (identity preserved) tocopherol, says Jessica Walden, QAI technical specialist.

Instead, QAI developed a “GMO Declaration” to address questions raised by the NOP’s rule on genetic engineering. The declaration describes QAI’s policy toward GMOs focusing on three categories:

When a product is a non-organic agricultural ingredient such as cornstarch, in order to qualify as non-GMO in “Organic” and “Made with Organic” categories, the original organism that produced the ingredient must be non-Genetically Modified. When a product is a non-organic non-agricultural ingredient, such as flavors and colors, the product must be free from Genetically Modified DNA or proteins. Lastly, if microorganisms such as citric acid are used, the microorganism must be a non-GMO.

On the declaration, the supplier must highlight measures taken to verify their non-GMO claim, such as traceability/identity preservation, GMO testing, and independent audits.

QAI’s GMO declaration has streamlined the response from suppliers for GMO documentation. Instead of receiving various GMO statements, QAI has its clients submit the GMO declaration.

Reading all of this, you gain a new respect for farmers who not only buck the industrial farming system by going organic, but by their perseverance in navigating the volumes and diverse methods of certification!

So what does this all boil down to, when you’re trying to choose a product?

Just this week I was looking for mayonnaise at my local natural foods co-op. They had a fairly broad selection of various organic mayonnaises from different manufacturers.

All of the mayo labels said “organic” somewhere on the label. Two of them said USDA Certified Organic. But only one had “GMO free” in addition to “organic” on the label. Coincidentally, it was the only mayonnaise that was not made from one the “Big Four” GMO crops (corn, soy, canola or cotton seed oil).

Does that mean it was the only mayo that was GMO free? No. The others were labeled organic, which technically means they couldn’t be GMO. Yet they didn’t have a “non-GMO” label, and they were sourced from crops with high incidences of GMO farming (soy and canola).

I tried consulting my two “non GMO shopping list” iphone apps, but none of the mayo brands on the shelf were mentioned (either as a pro or a con).

So I ended up playing it extra safe and buying the safflower-based mayo with the Non-GMO label.

What would you have done?

Learn More…

To view (or download if you wish) a PDF document containing an in-depth, evidence-based examination of the “Myths and Truths” about GMOs written by a noted geneticist, click here.

To keep abreast of breaking news, information and helpful recommendations about avoiding GMOs, consider “liking” our GMO Awareness Facebook page.

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236 thoughts on “Is Organic Always GMO Free?

  1. Pingback: Why We Need GMO Labeling (and how to get it) « GMO Awareness

    • Kim that’s a very good question. Water sources are not something typically divulged in ingredients lists, and would likely require direct contact with the food manufacturer to detetermine. Speaking from personal experience, I have found that a friendly email is often met with a reply… and if nothing else, begins to raise awareness at the manufacturer’s level about what their consumers care about.

      • I have the same concern regarding organic food that’s grown abroad. Say Mexico for example: although the food is USDA organic certified, how do we know that the water sources are clean? Especially knowing the fact that in many part of Mexico, even local don’t drink tap water. How do we know that the water used for irrigation is free of contaminates?

    • After calling the FDA, flouridation is a by product of chamicals and is natural.
      When i asked where do i find rhe definition of this special term natural, thay said is not defined and is an unregulated word.
      Good luck, there is no regulation on the disclosure of fluoride.

    • Unfortunately they do not consider the poison fluoride a contaminant, so they can use it in the process. When it comes to the USDA certification, the government just put a man in charge of their organic certification that was an executive for Monsanto, and under the USDA guidelines, beef can be fed and injected with anything up till the last 4 to 6 weeks before slaughter, when they must be fed only organic feed, but the damage has already been done. The best way to be sure of what you get is to go to a local farm if possible and grow your own gardens, these can be grown in cities as well as in the country, just use raised beds and get rid of the lawn.

  2. Pingback: Why We Need GMO Labeling (and how to get it) « GMO Awareness

  3. I’ve done some research on this. Certified organic does not mean it is non-GMO, according to what I found out. Nor is there any such thing as government certification for non-GMO. There are private certifications, but they are not regulated by the government, which can then mean you have to simply trust them (like I trust the government). The problem with non-GMO is there is NO national standard, and it can be very misleading to consumers to claim “non-GMO” in a product.

    • Jouh, I did extensive research myself. And while it’s true, that there is no way to guarantee a product is truly GMO-free (due in part to cross-contamination, testing of practice versus product, and companies who are quite simply not telling the truth) Certified Organic does indeed have established parameters to prevent GMOs in the product. If you check my links you will see I have sourced actual documents wherever possible. Now I will agree that many of us have lost faith in both the government and private certifications, but underneath that is a lack of faith in any human effort, and I am more of a “glass half full” person who wants to believe that somewhere, somehow, the truth will prevail 😀

      • Thank you for this information, it is so sad that we live in a world where food is becoming less of a solution and more of a problem. Greed is the standard and those with less will suffer so much more. Safe, healthy, nonmodified, hazard free food should really be the goal of all providers, governments and even big business!!! Money should not mean more than human life!!!

          • Are we really sure that we have choices? Just because we are on the subject, does to you sounds like we have a choice when our govenrment imposes us to drink water added with fluoride? Have anyone even asked why we are coerced to drink water with fluoride? I made a research and turns out that constant assumption of fluoride is unhelthy, in particular for the adverse effects having on the human epithelial gland, the most important gland in our body. This is an extract of what I discovered: “…Fluorosis a progressive degenerative disorder resulted from excessive intake of fluoride (F) either by natural or by anthropogenic sources and most commonly through drinking-water. Endemic fluorosis is prevalent in many parts of the world and often seriously impairs the health of human or animals. Fluorosis causes damage not only to skeletal tissue and teeth but also to soft tissues such as brain [1]. Several studies indicated that excessive exposure to fluoride may be associated with central nervous system dysfunction. Animal studies have shown that chronic or subchronic fluoride exposure may lead to changes in behavior and neurodegeneration [2–4]. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in children with exposure to high fluoride levels in drinking water was reduced [5–7]. Although the toxic effects of fluoride on the central nervous system were found, the specific mechanisms remained unknown…”. My question is: why should authorities add fluoride to our waters but not for example vitamines or other substances? Seen the effects of fluoride, such as reducing human IQ and seen the autority decision to impose us consumption of such substance, couldn’t the answer be that fluoride is a very easy way for the government (allies of the powerful rich) to keep people mentally AND SO SOCIALLY QUITE AND OBBIDIENT so that the reacher can become reacher and powerful without having to deal with people that would be otherwise incomodous if belligerant? This is a theory that I heard from other as well and makes perfectly sense to me, maybe because my IQ level is still in good condition due to the fact that I lived most of my life in Europe where fluoride is not imposed by governments in water??? Something to carefully think about it!

      • I use a relatively affordable over the counter water filtration system that removes fluoride from my drinking water, among other harmful elements it filters. It’s ten stage water filtration/ Enviro Products by New Wave, for which you can buy refill cartridges.

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  7. Thank you for this very informative article. My husband and I recently committed ourself to a gmo free life style. This article answered many of the questions I’ve been wondering about. My family despite the cost will be an increase effort to only purchase non gmo

  8. thanks for the info and the good links 🙂 after much research of many subject, trusting in my government is harder than trusting people like us. its thanks to people that care and exchange knowledge like this that i trust in us more than the goverment, cause i know we care, or we wouldnt be researching all that info!

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  14. This was a great article and as i am fairly uninformed about organic certification i found it really easy to understand. I actually saved this post as an “app” on my phone so i could refer to it when shopping lol! Have you ever tried veganaise mayo? Yep, its a vegan mayo. I buy the 100% organic version and it’s great!

  15. Pingback: Is Organic Always GMO Free? | GMO Awareness |

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  17. Thank you for all of you effort Going to the supermarket is a bit overwhelming for me right now cause I’m trying to learn what brands to trust (non gmo) Thanks again for all the precious tips they are greatly appreciated.

  18. SO nice to find explanations that are thorough. Whew. Like we don’t have enough other things to do – being a little confused just makes it hang-banging-hard! LOL! I am still learning and wanted to ask the question – if it is labeled with a statement “Non-GMO, Non-Soy” doesn’t that equate with organic? Or no? I am trying to raise an organically kept flock of hens and so far, the local organically inclined gardening shop I purchase feed from has this new layer feed with that on the label. Looking ti up online, the label explains that it uses peanuts and sorghum – which they also claim is non-gmo at this time. Thoughts? 🙂

    • Hello Tracy, thanks for such an awesome compliment. Here’s my opinion about things that are labeled “non-GMO” (or any “non-whatever” statement). First, I’m assuming there is no Non-GMO Project certification label on the feed bag, as that would answer the question for me immediately. Second, if there’s no certification brand on the bag (remember, USDA Organic = non-GMO too), I personally like to see more proof behind mere words on a label. Does the chicken feed bag have a website printed on it? Does the website have an FAQ page that mentions GMOs, along with the company’s approach behind testing/certification? If not, is there an email or phone number you can contact to ask? (though sometimes the “customer service” people simply read the written stuff they’ve been given, which often mirrors what’s printed on a label). Third, I know of no genetically modified peanuts, but I *have* heard of genetically modified sorghum, and concerns about it cross-pollinating with non-GMO sorghum: This does not mean they are using GMO Sorghum, it just means it exists. Last but not least, have you heard of a company called “Scratch and Peck, an Eggsellent Feed Company? They are Non-GMO Project certified (and they claim to be the ONLY feed that is): My summary opinion: Certified Organic and/or Certified Non-GMO Project products are superior not only for their lack of genetically engineered ingredients, but also for their methods involving less pesticides, antibiotics, better animal welfare, routine inspections, and the like. Whew. Sorry for the long reply. 🙂 And kudos to you for taking the extra time and effort to be aware and be healthy!

      • I know I am a little late to the party here, but I was just reading your blog. I have a potential answer to why someone would label “Non GMO” and not be labeled Organic. It takes a minimum of 3 years for a farm to transition from conventional to organic, even if they were never using GMOs. It is often more expensive for farms to make organic produce and products, so during this 3 year transition, they could be losing a lot of money. Their hope is often to recoop some of that lost profits by labeling GMO-free, which would hopefully attract customers that find that to be of concern to them. Currently there are lots of places wanting to transition to organic, but it is cost prohibitive.
        Hope that helps.

  19. Thanks so much for this comprehensive post on the GMO debate. With all the “green-washing” out there, it’s hard to know what’s a legitimate regulated label. It’s so great seeing a community of people that care about this very important issue. Keep up the great work! 🙂

  20. Hi there! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us
    so I came to take a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to
    my followers! Outstanding blog and superb design and style.

    • Thanks so much Crystle… I’ve been trying to figure out which Facebook group (or page) shared my blog, so I could give them a big round of thanks! If you don’t feel comfy sharing, please pass along my gratitude. The more we can all raise awareness, the better our future!

  21. I have heard many people wonder why should they spend more $$ on GMO-free products when they cannot trust whether their food is GMO free or not. The answer is simple:
    If you buy products that are labeled “organic” then you have a 90% chance that you are buying GMO free and pesticide free food. If you decide to purchase NON-organic food, then what is your chance of getting GMO free food?? Practically ZERO !
    The choice is yours but I’d rather take my chances on the 90% than the ZERO!
    How about you??

    • I’ve used the same argument… agreed 100%! Another thing I like to tell people is… where our dollars go, so follows the market. Do you want to support mega corporations who use your dollars to fight GMO labeling measures? (like so many of them did with California’s Prop 37) Or do you wanna support family-owned companies with ethics, who provide us with organic, GMO-free food *and* go out of their way to help raise awareness about GMOs? I know what my answer is… 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  22. The problem I’ve found with a company saying they use gmo free ingredients or a store claiming there is no gmo produce in their stores is that they don’t know because gmo’s are not labeled.

    I met a lady who makes a homemade product and puts a sticker on it that says it’s gmo-free. When I looked at the ingredients and asked her about the coconut she uses, she said it’s just the Baker’s Angel Flake Sweetened Coconut from the store.

    I called Baker’s & they said their sugar has gmo sugar beet sugar. So this lady was wrong in putting her sticker on her product, even though it was an innocent mistake.

    Also, I think Walmart has gmo sweet corn on the cob in the produce isle but when I asked the produce manager, he looked on the box the corn was delivered in and since it didn’t say “genetically modified” he said they don’t have any gmo corn in the store.

    (the problem is that nothing in the U.S. is labeled as gmo so everyone thinks they are not eating or buying gmo foods) This is a tradgedy!

  23. WE must do our due diligence here. Before you begin purchasing a product, call them and ask them. I called the Alexia brand Criss cut Sweet Potatoes while standing in Whole Foods. I asked them if their was any ” bio-tech” in their products and they confirmed it. ( I then went and complained to the Manager-to no avail, apparently as Whole Foods stills sells that crap.) When they began selling the “Back-to Nature packaged foods, I called them, again standing in trhe isle. Kraft asnwered the phone so I just hung up. Kraft, like Post, General Mills, Kellogs, ConAgra and many others are “pushers” for Monsanto so why bother reading them the riot act, they’ve all heard it from me many times over. If you cannot talk to someone at least by e-mail, then do NOT buy the product. My 2 cents worth…

      • I heard that Whole Foods bowed to pressure from Monsanto to rescind their pledge to not carry GMOs. I’d appreciate any links to whether or not this is true.

        • Lesley, this story (from back in 2011) was based on a comment made by the Whole Foods’ CEO in regard to a meeting they had with Tom Vilsack. I think personally that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Whole Foods sent an email out that was most definitely not very clear about their stance, indicating things like “GMOs were prevalent” and “while we oppose, we also recognize…” A copy of this email which originally appeared on their blog has since been removed, which would indicate they (at least) recognized that it was poorly written or (at most) realized their error in making the statement. The Organic Consumers Association blasted them for not taking a stronger stance. (You can find the freshly minted Whole Foods’ positions about these issues on their blog) More recently, Whole Foods announced that all products on their shelves will have GMO labeling by 2018. I give them kudos for setting a precedent, and a big “hmm” for taking so long, but then again I’ve never owned a national food chain so I can’t speak to the intricacies of carrying out such an order. I have additional personal opinions about Whole Foods (and Trader Joes) that keep me shopping at another local organic co-op chain in my area. 🙂

          • Thanks for the response. I am ambivalent about WF too. A new store is coming to my area in late 2014. I watched WF absorb the absolutely splendid Bread & Circus in MA which I still miss. I live in Ohio now and shop at Earth Fare which is good as far as it goes. Their selections are very limited, but ok. I wish that WF were as proactive as Bread & Circus used to be.

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  30. Thank you for the website and the information. My family (husband, daughter, and I) put forth a lot of effort to eat organic foods. I know there are times that certain products just aren’t available, but we are eating so much better/healthier than I did 30 years ago. Recently we purchased chickens to raise for organic eggs. They have started with eating “regular” feed which I believe may not be organic. 😦 However, this week, they will be moving on to adult feed. I am so thrilled to have found organic feed about 1 1/2 hrs. from my house at Hiland’s Naturals. Interestingly, they sell Certified Organic feed and Non-Gmo feed. When I asked the difference, I found that the non-gmo is not organic. I think the best bet for us is the Certified Organic. We will have organic healthy eggs in a couple months! I have wondered if there have been tests on eggs that are not organic. Do traces of gmo toxins show up? Thanks again! Looking forward to eating more organic non-gmo foods!

  31. Thank you for the information you have provided. I try to buy organic, non-GMO products but it is a daunting process at times. All new information is helpful. Everyone needs to be aware of Monsanto and what is happening in Congress right now. I hope that more and more people become aware of the dangers of GMO foods. Again, thanks.

  32. We’ve been trying to go organic and now non-GMO for over a year now. Our problem is that in a household such as ours, the cost involved becomes prohibitive. I’m working at building my business online with the largest percent of my earnings going toward food that is healthier for my family. We live on disability here, though. This means that we’re often scraping by and don’t have the choice as to what brand to purchase, it’s literally purchase what we can afford or the kids don’t get a sandwich, etc.

    It’s disheartening, but I think the information here and in other sites Iv’e found at least makes me feel like I’m not alone in caring, and in desperately NOT wanting this food on my family table.

    • Katrina, bless you for trying! You are not alone in the struggle with cost. Is it possible for you to grow a portion of your own food, either in your back yard, front yard, containers, or a local “pea patch” community garden perhaps? Here’s a link for safe non-GMO seeds. Another great tip is Costco… they are starting to stock more and more organic products and produce (I took photos of the organics I found on a recent visit); it never hurts to talk to their managers and ask for more… they are definitely a company that responds to input from their customers. Last but not least, I saw a great article on FoodBabe’s blog not too long ago, listing 75 tips for eating organic on a budget… my guess is you are already doing a lot of these, but perhaps there are a few that might be new to you? Very best of luck, and my sincere kudos to you for your efforts!!

      • I’m actually going to try my hand at a garden for the first time ever this year *yikes!* and can’t wait to check out the other links you shared! Thanks for the encouragement!

        Small (BIG) success story — after switching to mostly whole foods/organics each of our boys showed improvement in symptoms related to their autism and/or ADHD. My youngest (just turned 9) is actually attempting words now after we’ve been told for years that he wouldn’t talk. We’re not giving up – and we’re positive our efforts to change our diet have made a huge difference. That’s the reason it’s so important to us! 😀

        • That’s AWESOME news and progress!!! Kinda flies in the face of that ag-bio-financed study by Stanford that said organic vegetables have no noticeable difference, eh? 😉 Keep up the great work Katrina… and thanks for sharing your success with us all. ❤

  33. Katrina, you may want to look at this blog I found… There is one post giving 75 tips on how to eat organically on a budget. I am finding it useful. I have found a lot of resources (including this site!!) through Facebook. Good Luck!!!

  34. Are organic foods “processed or packaged in the USA” that are from China GM free? I was crushed when I heard that Costco’s organic green beans are actually from China, and leads me to wonder how to tell what else is? In the maze of things out there, my most frustrating challenge has been the “processed or packaged in USA” that Costco, Trader Joe’s and many other stores are carrying. I love Costco, and hope you can tell me some good news about the organics being sold there.

    • Bailey, I love how Costco has been bringing in more and more organics, making it more affordable for the average family to eat healthy food. That said, I am less convinced that their organic produce is at a standard I am personally willing to purchase. I have been sticking to the USDA Organic labeled packages on brands that I recognize (Annie’s, Nature’s Path, etc.). As for China, that is a topic I’ve been slowly gathering research on… and it hasn’t been easy to get to the bottom of the story. They do have organic standards in place, but they are even more convoluted than the U.S.’ standards to read, much less interpret, and I can’t find any confidence in their enforcement. In their defense, China recently told Brazil they want GMO-free soy… so we know the intentions are there, I’m just not sure about the processes. Sorry I can not give you a better answer!

  35. Pingback: Genetically Modified Foods, Certified Organic, and their meanings « Daily Carry

  36. Why isn’t there any infant formulas in the United States without soy in it? Why must we cram soy down America’s throat? The European infant formulas without soy are not allowed in USA because the FDA will not approve them!!!! No choice’s for our allergic babies other than Goat’s Milk or some other non essential altenative-Breastfeeding is great but a person alway’s needs a Plan B and forcing our babies to drink a phyto-estrogen cocktail is why America’s children is big and obese and having diseases like breast cancer, hear disease and early puberty at a much earlier age!!!!

  37. I was very impressed with your site until I came to the big promo for Non-GMO Project. Your false statement that eating “products certified by the Non-GMO Project . . . [assures] that you are eating GMO-free food” calls into question the accuracy and truthfulness of all the other information you provide here. How can you make such a reckless claim when Non-GMO Project’s own website specifies that their “verified” seal does NOT mean the product is GMO-free? See: Furthermore, Organic Consumers Association and others have revealed that the test results, data, and related information which Non-GMO Project supposedly utilizes are all SECRET and can never be released publicly (by contractual agreement with the corporations that pay them for their label). We don’t even know who conducts the tests. OCA has called Non-GMO Project a greenwashing operation. I will watch for your reply, hoping you will amend your recommendation and plead that you made an honest mistake.

    • Thanks for your comment; I take your use of the words “reckless” and “recommendation” quite seriously.

      I’m puzzled why you feel this article is a promo piece for the Non-GMO Project. The intent is to provide consumers with an overview of all of the labeling methods that apply to identifying GMO (free) products. Allow me to excerpt several statements from this article:

      Under the header “Buying USDA Organic / GMO Free…”

      First paragraph: “As explained above, buying USDA Organic is by no means a failsafe. However at this point in time, USDA Organic remains one of the best and most easily-identifiable ways of assuring that you are eating GMO-free foods most of the time.”

      Second paragraph: “Want to take it one step further? Buy products that are also certified by the Non-GMO Project.” **Note the use of the word “also.”** “The certification process behind this label is currently the best possible way of assuring that you are eating GMO-free food (though bear in mind, not all of the products bearing the Non-GMO Project label are organic—for the best of both worlds, chose products that also include the USDA Organic label).

      **Note my reference to the certification process–which goes beyond what the USDA Organic certification process does. My use of the word ‘also’ indicates that a manufacturer has taken the time to go through two separate certification processes–something I personally find to be an indicator of added attention to GMOs… versus an assurance of no GMOs as you interpreted the paragraph to imply.

      Third paragraph: **Since you reference the Non-GMO Project’s website in your comment, I’m surprised you missed my reference to it here:** “Sadly however, just like organic certification, the word “usually” once again comes into play: the Non-GMO Project’s website clearly states that its label does not guarantee a product is 100% GMO-free, because contamination is an ever-growing threat. So what does the label really mean?”

      **contamination is discussed at length prior to this third paragraph; we reference it again here to illustrate that both labeling methods–USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project–are still susceptible to contamination.

      Regarding your statement about SECRET test results and “who conducts the tests,” you can request (and receive) test results directly from the Non-GMO Project (I have on several occasions); they include a list of the labs and resources that perform their testing on their website. This does not make me a fan of them any more than I am a fan of the USDA. They and the USDA are simply the two main certification agencies / processes that we have currently available to us as consumers.

      In summary, no process is failsafe (as I state in this article); I’ve seen the test reports on products that were previously certified by the Non-GMO Project that later came back contaminated. This is the world we live in. The purpose of article is to help consumers navigate that world realistically, in an informed manner, in the best way they can, in light of (and in spite of) the processes that are being used today.

  38. You’re puzzled? I was clear the first time. Again, your statement — that Non-GMO Project certification assures “you are eating GMO-free food” — is false. Again, Non-GMO Project itself says their label does NOT mean a product is “GMO-free.” One has to dig for that information, but it’s there, and I linked you to that page on Non-GMO Project’s website.

    It’s your use of the term “GMO-free” that’s at issue here. This is an important point, and one that cannot be glossed over: a food product carrying the Non-GMO Project seal may well contain GMOs! In fact, even when testing clearly shows the presence of GMOs, Non-GMO Project may still provide their Non-GMO Project “verified” label. Again, they say so on their website.

    This is quite the opposite of what any consumer who sees that seal is reasonably likely to believe. After all, other food labels that say “Non-GMO” do indeed mean the product contains no GMOs. It’s only Non-GMO Project, which (by adding the word “Project”) drains the original meaning from the term non-GMO, and transforms it into something entirely different. It’s not unlike the way some companies use the word “natural” on the labels of their GMO frankenfoods in an effort to mislead consumers with a term that appears to mean one thing, but in fact means something else.

    Your statement that Non-GMO Project’s label is “the best possible way” of assuring you are eating GMO-free food only compounds the problem.

    Now, if your intentions are to accurately inform your readers, you should remove all references linking Non-GMO Project to any “GMO-free” claims. You should also publish a correction to your article, stating your original text was misleading, and not only is the Non-GMO Project label no *guarantee* that a product is 100% GMO-free, in fact Non-GMO Project EXPLICITLY REJECTS the use of the term “GMO-free” and their label is NOT INTENDED to mean the product contains no GMOs (quite unlike the USDA Organic label).

    I should mention that your portrayal of Non-GMO Project’s seal as somehow equivalent to, or even superior to, the USDA Organic label is quite unfortunate. For anyone interested, Cornucopia Institute has some incisive information on that subject. Sign up for their free email newsletters.

    As to the secrecy of Non-GMO Project test data, you say you have received some. I notice you do not identify yourself, except to say you have a “background in regulatory affairs and biotechnology.” The truth is, many independent scientists and others (not associated with biotech companies or the institutions they fund) are being denied this data. If the data is indeed available to the public (as you say), you are free to publish it on your site. Will you do that? I don’t think you will, because that data is not to be released publicly. In other words, it’s secret.

    • I’m afraid you’re having trouble comprehending my comment. Please read it again carefully. If, after doing so, you still wish to take issue with what I said, it’s certainly your right to do so.

  39. Pingback: USDA Organic Vs. Non-GMO Labeling: It’s Complicated – Sustainable Scoop

  40. I still think that this is a good article for general reference. I was looking for an overview on if organic = non-GMO and this answered the question. I think your article was clear that there is no way to know 100%; the point is that we are all at least trying to be conscience about eating non-GMO and looking at these labels is a start and still better than nothing.
    Thanks for the info-

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  42. Reblogged this on nomoregmo and commented:
    I had some friends ask me about this recently, and I have noticed it’s been brought up often on Facebook. With that in mind, I think this article sums up the current labeling we have in the United States, and covers why we continue to push for clear labeling, and a ban on GMO’s!

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  46. How do I get this outstanding article out to share on my FB page? I only have an option to reply or comment but not share? I’d love to get it out as it’s the best I’ve come across to explain all the confusion between labels and their meanings. thanks!

    • Louann, there’s a share section right at the end of the article, just underneath our copyright/disclaimer. If you still don’t see it, you can always copy the URL address (at the top of your browser window) and paste that into your Facebook status update field. Either way, thanks for helping to raise awareness!

    • Louann, if you click on excellent article (highlighted in blue in the text) will take you to the article from where you can share, I agree that is a wonderful article.

  47. From Jeffrey Smith/IRT’s Non-GMO Shopping Guide website (

    “When the product is labeled ‘100% organic,’ ‘organic,’ or just ‘made with organic ingredients,’ then even the non-organic ingredients cannot be produced from GMOs. For example, products labeled as ‘made with organic ingredients’ only require 70% of the ingredients to be organic, but 100% must be non-GMO.”

    Organic means GMO-free, whether there is an additional “gmo-free” label on the product or not. In the U.S., a seller can’t claim a product is “organic” unless that product meets USDA standards.

    Sellers can claim “natural” and “beyond organic” and “pesticide-free” and “pastured” etc. and none of those are necessarily GMO-free unless that is stated on the product. I trust the Non-GMO Project Verified label since that project is supported by Jeffrey Smith/IRT.

    GMO contamination is the only thing a farmer cannot predict or, in most cases, prevent until after the fact.

    Nothing is guaranteed in life. As far as GMOs in my food supply, I shop with my local farmers who I have met, I grow/raise more and more of my own food and I decide which labels I will trust. Short of being on the farm, at some point, you have to gather the evidence and trust.

  48. All this article tells me is that NOTHING is 100% GMO free. Because of cross contamination there will always be trace amounts. All we can do as consumers is limit our exposure. Even the companies who claimed they did not support Monsanto STILL had trace amounts in their products. Do we even know what a limited exposure will do to us over time?

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  52. This is great! I have recently began a personal mission to understand more about what I’m eating as well as providing for my family. I’ve always been a fairly “healthy” eater… or so I thought in terms of what I was buying at the store… wheat bread, brown eggs, etc. but never truly understanding what I’m buying and where it comes from. This was a great article for me on this journey. This spring I’d like to create my own garden as produce is the majority of my shopping cart…. do you have any insight or resources to ensuring I have an organic garden? based on seeds I purchase, soil, etc. that I should be using?

    • Beth, we are always thrilled to see another person’s growing awareness… kudos to you! Here’s another blog post we wrote which you may find helpful: 5 Steps to Becoming GMO Free. In it you’ll see we mention home gardens, with a link to a safe seed resource and an article with great tips for getting started in vegetable gardening. The only other tip I’d add is to make sure you’re buying organic compost (if you aren’t starting / using your own (presumably organic) compost bin). Avoid getting manure from farms that spray pesticides on their fields and/or feed their chickens/cows GMO grain. I’ve also had superb luck buying bags of worm casings (these are less easy to find… if you can track down nurseries that grow worms, you’re likely headed in the right direction!).

  53. What a farce. If the letters US are on anything, we can be assured it is false, a lie, and not to be believed. Since Monsanto owns the USDA…and the US is run by the Globalists and Agenda 21 is their bottom line…THEY ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

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  57. I have a question – why are eggs sold as either GMO-free -OR- organic -OR- soy-free (feed) but not all 3? Why can’t I at least find eggs that are GMO-free AND organic? I live in southern california and am baffled why this is so elusive…. thanks – great site 🙂

    • Boy if only we had the answer to that question…! At least the first two qualities are a moot point (USDA Organic = GMO-free) but adding in the soy factor does seem to confuse both the producers / labelers as well as we poor consumers. Hopefully with more and more naturopaths encouraging patients to find soy-free eggs as part of a gradual elimination diet process, the demand will spark some labeling updates… (I’m told Whole Foods can be a good source to find all three).

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  60. With our knowledge of government power-greedy betrayal (FDA) and big business greedy trickery (Monsanto, etc)…

    I do not TRUST the USDA stamps of “organic”. I would rather trust an independent and proven organization to regulate our foods qualities.

    Concerned Dude

  61. HELP it all started when i was looking for dog food not from china . that’s a joke , not then i heard about are food i typed in only food from us not china . i can not go into it all having hard time for 2mo. i did not find food that is 100% from us . I AM SOOOOOOOO STREES OUT.over this . soooo. oooo can someone help me with WHAT IS SAFE , WHER CAN YOU GET IT FROM is there a list of brands of food that ARE SAFE. IT IS HARD FOR ME TO DO ALL THAT RESEARCH .AS I AM READING .NOTHING IS SAFE EVEN ORGANIC. LIST OF ONLY THE ONE YOU WOULD BUY.

    • Lucy, feel free to continue exploring this website, there’s tons of info. In particular, look under the “Shopping List” section for all sorts of helpful pages including safe brands, etc.

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  67. I would like to know if you would be interested in advertising on your site.
    I think that an ad from/ about G-H.THRIVELIFE.COM would make a great addition since most of there food is GMO free as noted in their product detail report.

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  74. It is not consumer friendly or exact when food is lacked organic and can be contaminated with GMO anyway. The rooms and regulations are living to big loopholes. That needs to have an end . We want better regulations and laws that protect our food. We have the right to know what is in our food. Most continents have already band GMO how long will America still poison there people? It’s time to hear our voices.

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  83. Wanted to add one thing missing from the article as to why those looking for Non-GMO should consider Non-GMO Project Verification to be of a higher standard than USDA Organic, the latter sets no thresholds for inadvertent contamination and you will not lose your organic standards due to it. That is to say if you are following all the guidelines set in the standards and your crop is contaminated inadvertently you’re good to go.

    Non-GMO Project Verification sets the same standards for contamination found in places like EU and China, which is no more than 0.9%. If you have inadvertent contamination you will lose your right to the Non-GMO Project Verified seal in your annual testing.

    Of course there are other reasons to choose organic other than Non-GMO but if your primary goal is to choose Non-GMO foods then the project is the #1 label you should be looking for, THEN organic.

    Of course the best way to go Non-GMO is to avoid all possible GE ingredients, the list is short if you’re always using whole foods and for the few processed ingredients or corn/soy/sugar/cotton/canola ingredients choose one of the means above.

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  90. As long you dont have big agro planting their weeds around. They have a nasty way of cross polinating other farmers crops by being too close to them. The solution is no more GMOS on this beautiful PLANET.

  91. If many seed are patented I am curious to learn what seeds are the companies that make GMO products using? Where are they getting those seeds from?

  92. I am making it my life goal to end this abomination know as gmos
    As well as taking fluoride, arsenic, and other harmful chemicals out of water
    Since those enter our organic crops
    Since they don’t regulate the water
    The most important part
    Food and water are our greatest natural resource and we need to treat it that way
    And cherish it more than gold

    How was it a huge problem to use stem cells for research
    But they can genetically modify your food America ?!!?!?
    We should be outraged at the people behind this
    As bill gates claims we need population control
    And is the biggest contributor to Monsanto
    The largest gmo company

    And gmos have caused infertility in lab rats in later generations

    This is an attack on the American people
    We need to fight back and end this

    See how hard it is to find 100% non gmo foods?

    Monsanto went to courts
    And had a judge sign a document
    That states
    If any crop – including organics crops get contaminated from a gmo crop that Monsanto now owns it under legal authority

    And just look up cross contamination
    Idk if you have ever grown a crop
    But their are male and female plants
    The females have nodes or basically vaginas where the pollen or sperm can enter
    The male plants have balls which produce pollen which is very light
    And bees winds bugs pretty much everything in the air takes it places
    If you have one male plant in your crop of females they will ALL get seeds

    Aparantley the cross contamination is out of control with Monsanto crops
    Simply because pollen is impossible to control
    They can literally end real food
    Legally too

    How are people ok with this?
    I read this stuff and my blood boils I get so enraged I want to do everything I can to change this shit
    It’s barbaric
    So maybe that’s the only way we can act to take these corporations down
    Then again
    Mass awareness is the only way to start social change

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  98. It shouldn’t be this hard to find healthy food to eat. One would think it more normal if someone wanted to eat toxic crap to have to surf the bowels of the earth to find it but no…those of us looking to buy healthy foods need to jump through rings of fire. It’s not right. I don’t even trust the USDA

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  104. Hi, is it true when labeling beef as organic, that under the USDA guidelines, beef can be fed and injected with anything up till the last 4 to 6 weeks before slaughter, when they must be fed only organic feed?

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  109. Thanks for the info!

    But why not include that the Non-GMO Project label allows for about 1lb of GMO ingredients for every 100lb?
    Is that not relevant?
    What this label is doing is to devalue organic products, which should at the moment be the only products that are of actually zero gmo content. The Non-GMO PROJECT label also sneaks GMOs under a “healthy” type of label that should simply not exist. What should exists is a NO GMO label that allows zero GMO content or a GMO INSIDE label. Only one of these would be honest and clear about GMO content and provide the informed or uninformed customer with a way to avoid GMOs completely. I find the Non-GMO PROJECT label to be a misleading marketing gimmick that is unnecessary and effective only to add value where it isn’t needed for the sake of more sales, of course.

    As per the non-GMO PROJECT’s website:

    “We use an Action Threshold of 0.9%. This is in alignment with laws in the European Union (where any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled). Absence of all GMOs is the target for all Non-GMO Project Standard compliant products. Continuous improvement practices toward achieving this goal must be part of the Participant’s quality management systems.”


  110. In response to the person who asked about imported cheese from Europe. I read in more than one place that in such cases they sell their GMO free cheese to their own, but to the U.S. they sell GMO cheese. So we cannot assume it’s GMO free without the label saying so just because it is imported, unfortunately. They are already making GMO free cheese, why can’t they just extend that to us? Why consciously feed Americans poison? My guess is because it’s cheaper, higher profits from the U.S. market. We don’t have the label to turn us off, whereas in Europe they have the GMO label. Still, shame on them, we’re all people, we deserve the same, we deserve to be free of toxins as much as possible.

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  115. The safest way to make sure what you eat is non-gmo is to never eat anything that has a gmo alternative. In other words, just keep eliminating foods from your diet and the feed of your animals as any gmo potential for cross-contamination exists. Grow heirloom and only buy from people you personally know or brands that test.

    If we can’t stop this runaway train, there will be less and less to eat and our pastures will be overrun with gmo grasses and alfalfa.

  116. Someone here mentioned that greed is the underlying problem behind all of the problems in our food chain. The inherent weakness of capitalism is the fact that corporations are beholden to its shareholders. Unfortunately, the primary reason why someone INVESTS in a corporation is to have increased dividend payments, increased equity value, or a combination of both. Here, corporations have two options: 1. decrease costs, and/or 2. increase sales. A corporation increases sales by basically giving the consumers what they want: a cheaper product with a higher value proposition. However, said corporation has to keep the investors (shareholders) happy, so they have to maintain their profits while producing that cheaper product. In order for them to maintain profits, they have to decrease its costs in producing the product. It’s a vicious cycle that is fed by the system. But the REALITY is that WE, the consumer, are ultimately responsible for this problem. We are demanding our products for cheaper and we strive to justify the reduced cost by turning a blind eye to the idea that somewhere in the supply chain, corners are being cut to supply this product. This is something that extends to all industries: food, clothing, transportation, housing, etc. We have become so used to paying pennies for a crappy product that when we see a product that is more expensive, we think that product is a rip-off. Yes, there are impoverished communities that can’t afford more, but these communities are spelling their own demise by shopping at the Wal-Marts. The fact is that the farms can’t survive by being completely clean. It simply costs too much and in the end, the consumers don’t CARE enough to pay the extra amount it takes to produce the clean product.

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  124. Getting concerned about the apples we are eating. I have read a few times about the GMO apple that doesn’t turn brown. I recently bought a bag of organic apples and after I cut an apple, 24 hours later it is still white. I have also read an article a few years back talking about how organics can be GMO because of a loophole. I do buy most of my food organic, but this apple thing is very confusing.
    thanks Jae

    • Many apple varieties naturally resist browning, some varieties brown much faster than others (i.e., there was no need to genetically develop a non-browning apple in our opinion). If the apple was correctly labeled, you likely have no fear. If you want to be extra safe, check with the store and ask the manager for more information.

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  129. Good Morning.
    Thank you for your site. The link below has failed. Would appreciate it if you can fix this link.
    Thanks very much.

    Other “Natural” Product Labeling Terms

    Additional labeling terms – such as Natural, Cage Free, Free Range, Certified Humane (raised and handled), Vegetarian Diet, Fair Trade, and Locally Grown – have no direct relevance to whether a product is GMO free (genetically modified vegetables can and do get used in animal feed sometimes… particularly corn fed to pigs, cows and chickens).

    For a helpful description about each of these, click here.

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  131. With gene editing techniques of genetic engineering defined now as NON-GMO by the recent federal labeling law, will this be allowed GMO foods to be labeled certified organic? In addition, with USDA in charge of organic certification do we trust that the process is carried out honestly?

  132. Hi. I though a natural fruit (not GMO) like an orange, should have seeds, as that is how they continue their natural cycle, as opposed to GMO fruits that usually don’t have seeds assumedly to make the companies buy more seeds directly from the GMO producer. However, many fruits I buy, labeled as Organic, don’t have seeds. I’m looking at the label of an orange I just ate that didn’t have any seeds, that says “organic certified by QAI”. Does this mean it’s a GMO? Thank you.

  133. Pingback: Heirloom And Organic; A Quick Explanation – Sow Local KC

  134. Pingback: Heirloom And Organic; A Quick Explanation – Sow Local KC

  135. I thank God that I came across your article this morning and that you wrote it! My husband and I are really trying to eat even BETTER than we thought we were and be way more conscious of food shopping. We have small children and want them to not have to worry about what foods to purchase when they get to that stage of their lives. We just watched the documentary “GMO OMG”, and had a serious conversation about ‘how to shop for food’; particular the one we can’t grow ourselves, and reading your article today just solidified things for me & I must thank you. By the way, I’d shop for both labels, NOW my husband will as well!

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  139. Regarding mayo, try blending cider vinegar, high-quality oil (such as olive oil – though many brands are not what they appear), and some juice from boiled chickpeas or other lecithin-rich legume: it blends into mayo surprisingly fast!

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  153. Pingback: ➡️ GMOs In Organic Food. How To Protect Yourself | Homenting Store

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