Is Non-GMO Project Verified the Same as Organic?
GMO seems to be a hot topic nowadays and with good reason! From non browning apples to scorpion cabbage – genetically modifying our food at a cellular level freaks me right out AND I’m not alone! Consumers are starting to question and even demand that their favorite foods be GMO free, but is Non-GMO Project Verified the Same as Organic?
OH! and if you really want a glimpse into the freaky side of GMO read “6 freaky foods you may not have heard of“, it’ll take you to a land that is all shades of freaky!
Some of the most HIGH-Risk, commonly grown GMO crops are:
- Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
- Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
- Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres) :(
- Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
- Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
You may have noticed over the last few years, a little symbol (as seen above) has been quietly added to many a product indicating that it is GMO free, but what does it really mean AND is GMO project verified the same as certified organic?
Who is behind the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal?
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that was initiated by retailers who believe strongly that North American consumers have a right to clearly labeled non-GMO food. YES!
“Our strategy is to empower consumers to make change through the marketplace. If people stop buying GMOs, companies will stop using them and farmers will stop growing them.” -Non-GMO Project
Sounds great but how is it regulated?
In order to qualify for the ‘seal’ a product has to undergo a verification process. The verification process is handled by independent, third-party technical administrators who determine if a product complies. The testing is usually done as close to the initial processing as possible with both ingredients and manufacturing facilities being assessed.
So, am I guaranteed a GMO free product if it has the seal?
Unfortunately, with so much cross contamination these days, it is impossible to declare anything 100% non-GMO.
The EU, being WAY more strict with their food supply than North America, has recently declared that any product containing more than 0.9% GMO must be labeled. In alignment with this law, the Non-GMO Project also allows any food that tests less than 0.9% GMO to wear their seal. It’s important to note that even though a product is grown without GMO, there is still a chance of cross contamination with GMO products processed within the same facility.
What kind of products currently carry the GMO Project Verified Seal?
It seems as though many mainstream products are seeking out the verification as a response to customer demand. Cheerios (General Mills), for example now bears the seal as does Crisco’s Pure Coconut Oil (don’t even get me started about Crisco and their GMO vegetable cooking oils). There is an extensive list of products here.
Non-GMO Project Verified and Organic are NOT BFFs!
You may have noticed that food labeled with either (or both!) of these certifications sit comfortably next to each other at health food stores. I’ve often wondered if they are interchangeable, hence my little research project (this post!). I’ve put together this easy graphic highlighting some of the similarities and differences between the two:
Although it is encouraging to see grocers and consumers taking a stand against GMO, the Non-GMO Project Verified would not be my first choice at the grocery store. As you can see in the above graphic, the Non-GMO Seal does not exclude the use of pesticides etc… which are very damaging and used in excess in conventional farming. I have noticed however, that the 2 seals are often found together on organic products which I suppose is redundant but A-ok with me! My first choice is still local AND organic. :-)
How important is NON-GMO in your grocery shopping?