Know Your Labels: The Important Difference Between Non-GMO and Organic


By Ariana Marisol

When you look at labels, do you pay more attention to non-GMO labels, or USDA Organic labels? It is important to remember that the two are not the same.

Megan Westgate, the Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project thinks that their labeling has given them a significant rise in sales since 2010. Currently, the project has risen to about $16 billion in annual sales of products, when just two years ago, they were only at $7 billion.

While organic food sales are growing, it certainly is not as significant. Some organic food companies are beginning to launch their own Non-GMO Projects to get their products tested for GMOs. The official USDA rules for organic companies prohibit the use of genetic engineering, but do not require them to test their ingredients for the presence of GMOs.

Yet, the non-GMO label might seem misleading to many. Some organic food companies are beginning to voice their concerns about non-GMO labels and what they represent. They are worried that shoppers are becoming more fixated on non-GMO labeling, that they are forgetting about the importance of organically produced food.

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Just because there is a non-GMO symbol on a carton of eggs or on produce, does not mean these products were not produced with pesticides, antibiotics, and regard to animal welfare. Although non-GMO foods are great, it is important to remember the many ways chemicals can enter our bodies through food.

For example, non-GMO soybeans are usually sprayed with cheaper weedkillers such as glyphosate, instead of a more expensive, organic alternative. Yet organic soybeans are almost always also non-GMO. Yet no chemicals are used to control their weeds.

Yet, many farmers do not want to put in the extra money and effort to grow their crops this way and because of it, there is a shortage of organic soybeans and corn, which are needed to feed organic animals. This, in turn, has driven the price of organic crops through the roof.

The USDA organic rules cover everything from food additives to animal welfare to soil fertility, while non-GMO labeled products only have one rule: no GMOs.

Next time you go to the store, look at the labels of the food you choose to eat. Check their prices. Chances are, you will probably see that organic food is more expensive than its non-GMO counterpart, but at what cost to your own health?

While GMOs are dangerous, mysterious, and scary, pesticides are just as much of a nightmare. Choosing food that is non-GMO and organic is always the way to go.

Ariana Marisol is a contributing staff writer for She is an avid nature enthusiast, gardener, photographer, writer, hiker, dreamer, and lover of all things sustainable, wild, and free. Ariana strives to bring people closer to their true source, Mother Nature. She graduated The Evergreen State College with an undergraduate degree focusing on Sustainable Design and Environmental Science. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Photo Credit: USDA/flickr

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