When Does Organic Mean GMO Free?

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If you’re not always sure what you can expect when purchasing organic foods, you’re not alone. Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that not all items featuring the word “organic” are held to the same standards. Our recent post entitled “What Does the Organic Label Really Mean?” was aimed at clarifying that.

As it relates to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), you can rest assured that items labeled 100% organic with the USDA organic seal are completely GMO-free by government regulations. On the other hand, foods that are labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients” or simply “Organic” are not as tightly regulated─and may contain GMOs. To be sure your food is GMO-free, buy USDA certified 100% organic food.

Why should you avoid GMO’s? As you may know, GMOs are organisms created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology. This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that would never occur in nature, or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

According to the Non-GMO Project, the safety of GMOs is questionable at best. In 30 other countries around the world─including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union─there are significant restrictions, as well as outright bans, on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe.

In the U.S. on the other hand, FDA-approved commercial production of GMOs is based primarily on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale. Many Americans find the lack of rigorous, independent, scientific examination on the impact of consuming GMOs to be cause for concern.

A 2008 CBS News Poll found that 87% of consumers wanted GMOs labeled, and, according to a more recent CBS/New York Times poll, 53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified. According to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, 86% of corn, and over 90% of canola grown in the U.S. were GMO.

In fact, GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average American grocery store! Fortunately, along with the USDA organic seal, the Non-GMO Project’s seal allows health-conscious families to make an informed choice when it comes to GMOs.

While we may not settle the safety question immediately, why take chances? You can avoid a host of potential problems by simply zeroing in on that USDA organic seal─which excludes foods treated with radiation to extend shelf life, GMO’s, potentially dangerous pesticides, herbicides, and more. In supporting the greater organic/Non-GMO movement, we’ll all benefit over time.

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