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The Difference Between Non-GMO and Organic

Have you ever been grocery shopping and selected an item off the shelf, put it in your cart, glanced up and realized the brand right next to the item you chose has a different label? Non-GMO and organic labels are now fairly common in the organic sections of  the market. But which is better? And what on earth is the difference between non-GMO and organic labels? nongmo main

We already know that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are bad for us. Really, really bad. But doesn’t the “organic” label take care of letting us know how to avoid these monsters? One would think. Let’s see what the labels really mean…

What does “organic” mean?

Organic is a term that refers to the way the food was produced, as well as the item itself. The National Organic Program requires that, in order to be labeled organic, the food cannot become contaminated, cannot co-mingle or come in contact with genetically modified organisms. Sounds great, right?

However, the USDA has not been super quick to take care of companies who are wrongfully (and illegally) using the label “organic.”

So, the organic program basically stops at the point of assuring the standards are met.

Say what?!

It’s true. It can take up to three years for the USDA to crack down on companies not cooperating. This means that during that time, many foods can be produced with the label “organic,” sold in your grocery store and put in front of your family. They are capitalizing on our inability to know the difference. (So here is where we show them up, right??)

So when purchasing organic foods, what do the labels mean?

  • 100% Organic means all ingredients (except water and salt) and foods are completely organic and GMO-free.
  • Certified Organic or USDA Certified Organic means 95% of the ingredients are organic and usually GMO-free.
  • Made with Organic means up to (did you catch that? “up to”) 70% of the ingredients are organic and not usually GMO-free.

But remember, many companies have found ways to slip through the cracks and include items that are not truly 100% organic!

What does “non-GMO” mean?

Most developed countries (more than 45 countries!) have banned the use of GMO products in their food. Their concern is over the safety of these products for consumption by children and adults. In the US, however, nearly 80% of all processed foods contain GMO ingredients.

Go ahead. Re-read the previous sentences.

It’s pretty clear why America is one of the sickest countries in the world (ranked number 16!) and yet spends more than twice the amount on healthcare than any other nation in the world. Staggering, isn’t it? GMOs are making us sick.

Enter the Non-GMO Project!

Food companies who desire to provide their customers with GMO-free products can go through a certification process with the Non-GMO Project to ensure their processes are, in fact, GMO-free.

The Non-GMO Project goes beyond the USDA’s certifications, all the way to the tiny seeds planted for the ingredients of a food project.

Why should we trust what the Non-GMO Project verifies? Because companies working with the Project have sought them out. And paid fees to ensure they are completely cooperating with the Project’s certification requirements! It’s the company’s own initiative. These companies want our trust and are willing to pay to prove they deserve it.


The Non-GMO Project’s website is super informative. You can follow the Non-GMO Project’s blog for the latest news and events in GMO labeling initiatives (attempts at legally requiring companies to label their GMO-containing products!). The project also has an app for when you’re on the go!

I ran across the Food Babe‘s post on 100 Days of Real Food: How Food Companies Exploit Americans with Ingredients Banned in Other Countries and thought it was too good to not share with you.

Not all organic infant formulas are created equal! Many organic formulas have incredibly harmful and unnecessary ingredients. This article compares the organic formulas commercially available in the US. As a formula-supplementing mom before I got my supply up, I know how hard it can be to want to breastfeed but need to supplement. I am one of the contributing authors over at and we work hard to answer your questions and provide you with a safe place to troubleshoot.

What Non-GMO Project products does your family love?

photo credit: tjdewey via photopin cc


  1. So if it has the No-GMO label, does that automatically mean it’s organic? Does that mean it’s “safe” to eat? I’ve actually been wondering these things, so I’m glad you blogged about it!

    • It is definitely safe to eat non-GMO stuff! I would choose it over “organic” labels when possible because you never know how many ingredients the USDA hasn’t “caught” yet (if you have a chance to read the formula article, it talks about a number of ingredients in our babies’ formulas they take their sweet time with :( ).

  2. So can an organic apple be gmo?

    • Theoretically, yes. But last time I checked the GMO Project didn’t have any fresh produce growers listed so “USDA Organic” seems the best option at this point. :)

      • I don’t think apples contain GMOs whether they are organic or not. I’ve heard that most produce, with the exception of some papayas, zucchinis and sweet corn are non-GMO (even non-organic ones)….however, I’m sure that is bound to change eventually. They’re trying to pass GMO rice now.


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