When it comes to deciphering food labels, things can get confusing.
This is sometimes the case with organic foods, as you might wonder if they contain other ingredients that you don’t want to consume, such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
What does it mean when food is listed as organic?
When foods contain the organic label, this means that they have been grown without any prohibited substances.
However, different organic labels mean different things. Let’s explore what organic foods are all about and if they are allowed to contain GMOs.
What Does Organic Mean?
Foods such as meats, fruits, and vegetables can be labeled as organic.
This label means that they have had to meet very high and strict standards related to the use of fertilizers, practices, and hormone usage during their production. Even soil quality and how animals are raised are monitored.
It’s important to understand that there are different “organic” categories.
- If a product is said to be “100% organic,” this means all of its ingredients are organic.
- By comparison, the “organic” label means that 95% of ingredients are organic, and the rest of the ingredients are approved for use in the organic product.
- A product will contain the “USDA organic” label if a third-party certification body has verified that it meets the 100% organic rules.
- Finally, if a product is labeled as “made with organic,” this means that a minimum of 70 percent of its ingredients are organic and the rest of the ingredients are approved for use in organic products.
Benefits Of Organic Food
- Organic food has been found to contain more nutrients than non-organic food. A study found that organic onions had 20 percent more antioxidant content as compared to conventionally-grown onions. Similarly, research found that organic milk and meat both had a greater amount of essential fatty acids than conventionally-produced products.
- It’s good for the planet. Since organic farming doesn’t make use of substances that can harm the environment, such as pesticides, this makes it better for the environment. This is why you’ll find a greater diversity of plants and animals on organic farms.
- Organic food tastes better. A study found that the high levels of antioxidants present in organic food enhance its organoleptic qualities, which means it has a better taste, aroma, and mouth feel.
- It doesn’t contain antibiotics. Animals are not given antibiotics during the production of organic food. This is better for your health because research has found that when antibiotics are used in agricultural environments they develop antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that can be transferred to humans.
Potential Disadvantages of Organic Food
- It costs more to grow organic food. This is because of all the strict rules farmers need to follow, such as when it comes to avoiding pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and more.
- Organic produce tends to spoil faster than non-organic food as a result of it not containing preservatives.
What Is Non-GMO?
If you’re worried about GMOs, you’ll naturally want to steer towards foods that are labeled “non-GMO.”
Non-GMO basically means that a product was produced without any genetic engineering and its ingredients are not sourced from GMOs.
This is important because GMOs are made by changing the genetic makeup of an animal or plant in ways that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.
Most GMO crops on the market have been genetically engineered so that they can produce their own pesticides or they can tolerate herbicides that would otherwise have killed them.
Non-GMO means that farmers have not used genetic modification to grow their products.
The problem is that it’s tricky for food to achieve non-GMO labels because these organisms can travel via pollen or other means. When a GMO is released into the environment, it can’t be eliminated.
To combat such issues, the Non-GMO Project has standards outlining important requirements for food producers to follow to avoid GMO contamination, such as by testing ingredients that are at a high risk for containing GMOs.
Benefits Of Non-GMO Foods
- They prevent toxin consumption. GMOs require the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to grow. These can enter the food we eat. By choosing non-GMO food, these toxins are avoided.
- They prevent allergies. GMO foods can trigger various allergic reactions because they can contain genes sourced from allergens.
- They can prevent cancer. While more research is required to find out if GMO foods can cause diseases such as cancer, some experts state that GMO foods can contribute to this disease as a result of how cancer is caused by DNA mutations. It’s harmful to introduce new genes into the body.
- They prevent antibiotic resistance. Some GMO plants have genes that make them resistant to antibiotics, and it’s thought that there’s a risk that this resistance could be passed onto humans.
Potential Disadvantages Of Non-GMO
- Non-GMO plants aren’t as resistant to disease. One of the biggest benefits of GMO crops is that they are built to be stronger against pests, diseases, and environmental conditions such as drought, which produces greater yields.
- Non-GMO plants don’t contain enhanced nutrients. GMOs can be treated with a greater amount of nutrients. An example is rice that’s treated with beta carotene. This was developed to help prevent blindness from a lack of vitamin A, which is rife in regions where people’s consumption of this essential nutrient is too low.
Is Organic Food Always Non-GMO?
When you choose organic food, you might wonder if GMO ingredients have been allowed in its production.
They’re not. GMOs are never allowed in ingredients or production processes of organic food. According to the USDA, using genetic engineering or GMOs are strictly prohibited in organic products.
So, an organic farmer is not allowed to plant GMO seeds and a cow on an organic farm won’t be fed genetically-modified corn or other food.
This means that when you choose organic foods, you’re also choosing non-GMO ingredients. This makes it easy to ensure that you’re avoiding GMOs in your diet.
Non-GMO vs Organic: Which One Is Better?
It’s actually better to buy organic foods instead of ones labeled as “non-GMO” if you want to avoid genetically modified ingredients in your food. There are some important reasons for this.
For starters, when foods are labeled non-GMO it doesn’t mean that they’re always completely GMO-free – there’s still a risk of accidental contamination.
Therefore, organic foods are a wiser choice as they prevent the spread of GMOs while also supporting the companies and farmers who don’t use GMOs. It’s also worth noting that non-GMO verified products only avoid GMO ingredients in their production.
They are not free of other harmful, toxic ingredients or the hundreds of chemicals that are used to make conventional foods, such as artificial colors and preservatives. By comparison, organic foods won’t contain any of these ingredients.
By choosing organic products, you’re choosing to eat foods that have undergone rigorous testing to be certified organic, and the USDA’s verification is much more comprehensive than Non-GMO verification.
For example, the Non-GMO Project website explains that if animal product feed contains a high GMO risk, such as if it contains soy which is largely genetically modified, tests will be conducted to ensure that the ingredients are still in line with the non-GMO standard.
However, the feed doesn’t have to be Non-GMO verified. By comparison, all USDA organic feed must be certified organic. This means that when the USDA states that a product is certified organic, it’s been produced in an organic way from the start and you can trust it.
Can a Non-GMO product be organic?
This can sometimes be the case, but there’s no guarantee. A non-GMO food product can still be non-organic, so it’s important to check its organic labels.
Is organic the same as fair trade?
A product that’s labeled organic states how the product was grown, whereas a fair-trade label means that the labor used to produce the food was paid and treated fairly.
If you want to start a healthier diet, you might wonder about food labels that state their ingredients are non-GMO or organic. What do these mean?
Are organic foods always non-GMO?
In this article, we’ve provided you with all the information you need so you can start making better food choices.