Organic Vs. Non-GMO Labels

For people who have become more conscious of what goes into what they eat, the good news is that an increasing number of food manufacturers are offering organic options, making organic food one of the fastest-growing segments of food production in the United States. The bad news is that all of those options can be confusing, especially when factoring in food made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some people might be trying to eat an all-organic diet, and others may simply be trying to avoid GMOs. Although foods may be labeled as USDA-certified organic or Non-GMO, consumers may not understand the difference. In many cases, there is some overlap between the USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, but there are some key differences consumers should be aware of when trying to make the distinction between organic foods and foods made without GMOs.

In general, foods bearing the USDA Organic label have been produced without the use of GMOs as well as other criteria that certify that the food has been produced with at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Foods that have been labeled as Non-GMO, on the other hand, only need to meet the criteria that they contain less than 1 percent of GMO content. Foods certified as Non-GMO may have been exposed to chemical pesticides or fertilizers, animals may have been subjected to antibiotics or hormones, and livestock may not have been fed using 100 percent organic feed. In short, all USDA Organic certified foods are Non-GMO, but not all Non-GMO certified foods are organic.

The increased variety and selection available at the grocery store today may be more confusing, but anyone who is concerned about what goes into their favorite organic chocolate brands will need to know the difference between the labeling and what the labels mean. The following chart helps delineate the differences between USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, so review it the next time you check the labels on your favorite snacks.


Author bio: Chris Bekermeier is Vice President of Marketing at PacMoore. PacMoore is a food contract manufacturer that offers food processing and packaging services. Bekermeier received his B.S. in business management from Eastern Illinois University and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. 

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