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GMO vs Organic: Key Differences Between Food Labels

Written by Lorenz Macasadia on October 29, 2018


Everyone knows that the quality of the food we eat affects our health significantly. We've been taught that organic foods are better for our bodies and the environment. But with the drastic difference in price, choosing between GMO and non GMO vs organic foods may seem hard to justify.

As such, it's crucial to understand the difference between non-GMO and organic food labels. More food products are being marketed as "non-GMO" and many of us may not even know the difference.

Many of us are left questioning what the actual GMO meaning in food is. We also find ourselves tangled in a debate between GMO vs non GMO products.

You may be wondering, aren't non-GMO foods the same thing as organic? Is there really a difference or are we just being tricked into purchasing more expensive foods because they have a label on them?

This might also lead you to ponder, “wait, can organic be GMO actually?” It seems like a strange question, but it’s one that plagues the minds of many conscious consumers.

In this article, we're going to talk about the benefits and differences between non-GMO and organic products as well as GMOs - specifically:

  • What are GMOs?
  • What are organic foods and can organic be GMO?
  • Non-GMO vs Organic
  • GMO vs Organic: Analyzing food labels
  • Why not all organic foods are good for you
    • GMO vs. Organic

      What Are GMOs?

      The GMO meaning in food stands for "genetically modified organisms". Genetically modified foods have certain molecules added or removed from the DNA of the food product to enhance it in some way. A gene is inserted into the organism of the food that it normally wouldn't have. These genes are usually from a virus or bacteria and it's designed to alter the way food is grown.

      For example, when you see abnormally large strawberries or blueberries at the food store, most of the time these are genetically modified. They are usually designed to produce larger fruit and oftentimes, sweeter fruit. 

      This showcases the direct application of GMO vs non GMO practices in agricultural produce.GMO foods are most commonly created to provide a higher nutritional value to food and to also make it resistant to pests.

      Pros of GMO Foods

      While it may seem unnatural to alter or add organisms into food products, there are a few benefits to it:

      • It costs less to produce GMO foods
      • Fewer weeds invade the crop
      • Provides a sweeter taste to fruits
      • Provides higher nutritionally improved traits to provide health benefits for consumers[*]

      Cons of GMO Foods

      When it comes to anything unnatural, there come a few downsides:

      • Many plants are now producing bacterial toxins leading to resistant bugs
      • Superweeds have been discovered that resist normal herbicides
      • Humans are consuming these harmful bacterias and toxins
      • GMOs are a new food source to humans which causes allergic reactions to some people
      • In rare cases, cancer is found because of the altered chemicals in food products

      Fortunately, more than 60 countries now require GMO labeling and 26 countries are partially banning GMOs.

      Should You Avoid GMOs?

      GMOs have been a huge topic for debate. The question of whether or not you should completely avoid them comes down to two factors: your health and the environment.

      GMO crops lead to an increase in the use of chemical pesticides because the crops have a higher tolerance to withstand these chemicals. This means our environment and farming communities have more exposure to these herbicides and pesticides which causes more pollution to the ocean and air.

      Little research has been conducted on the safety of GMOs in regards to health. While some people believe it may be harmful to consume foods that are unnatural, more studies must be conducted before making any proper claims.

      What Are Organic Foods?

      Organic products are foods free of any harmful chemicals, synthetic herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics, drug residues, and neurotoxins.

      They are almost always more expensive than GMO foods because they require more care to produce and they need to be certified. Pesticides must also be organically approved before use which drives the cost up even higher.

      In fact, organic foods can cost up to 50% higher than regular foods.

      So what’s better to purchase: GMO vs. organic foods?

      Pros of Organic Foods

      Here's why organic foods might be worth the monetary investment:

      • No pesticides can be used when growing organic foods.
      • Round-up cannot be used with organic crops. Round-up is a common herbicide used to kill off weeds.
      • Organic crops don’t use hexane. Hexane is a neurotoxin used in common vegetable oils like soybean, canola, and corn.
      • Organic meats don't contain any hormones. Many people express concern that meats with growth hormone can increase the chances of cardiovascular disease.
      • Animals raised organically aren't given any antibiotics. This means the meat it produces won't contain any harmful toxins you may have consumed otherwise.

      Cons of Organic Foods

      While it may seem like a healthier alternative to adopt a strictly organic food diet, there are some downsides to it:

      • When it comes to GMO vs organic or non GMO vs organic, organic foods are significantly more expensive.
      • Not all food stores have a wide selection of organic foods. Going to your local farmers market rather than a grocery store may be a better option.
      • Easily goes bad. Organic foods have a shorter shelf life compared to GMO foods so they must be consumed relatively soon after purchase
      • Higher bacteria levels. Since there are very little to no pesticides and herbicides used on organic foods, the consumption of organic foods has been linked to an increased risk of e-Coli bacteria in the digestive system.
      • No nutritional benefit. Research has found that there is no major nutritional benefit of organic food over other conventional means.

      What’s the Difference Between Non-GMO and Organic?

      In the GMO vs organic discussion, organic foods do not contain any pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, or additives. This helps the overall biodiversity of plants and animals which makes it much better for the environment. It also helps prevent antibacterial resistance in animals and chemical runoff when pesticides seep into the ground.

      When it comes to non-GMO vs organic, non-GMO has many similarities to the organic label but they aren't exactly the same. There’s a subtle difference between non GMO and organic products that really comes down to the fineprint. This label means that the ingredients in any specific food product have been verified by the Non-GMO project to ensure no genetically modified material is present. For meat, this includes the food the animals ate to ensure there are no GMOs in their bodies.

      This is achieved by testing every ingredient that goes into the final product. Companies and their suppliers with the non-GMO stamp of approval are inspected yearly to make sure they are compliant with Non-GMO Project standards.

      The slight difference with the organic label is that non-GMO prevents the use of herbicides that contain GMOs, but it does not mean it must be grown organically. They could be grown with conventional, non-organic approaches (which is why people often ask, “can organic be GMO?”)

      Bottom line: Organic and Non-GMO are similar in the fact that both labels go through rigorous testing to ensure genetically modified material is not present in the food or the creation of it.

      Which Food Label is Best: Non-GMO vs. Organic

      The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extremely strict guidelines when it comes to what can be labeled as organic, GMO or non-GMO.

      The non-GMO label means the food product wasn’t made with GMO, but this GMO meaning in food doesn't qualify it as organic.

      Organic foods are the most heavily regulated label. Purchasing foods with the "non-GMO" or "organic" label is your safest bet when it comes to overall health and minimal toxins.

      Organic and non-GMO labels are highly similar. In fact, many times the only reason why certain companies don't take the extra step for the organic label is that it costs farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars just to get the certification. Whereas non-GMO is almost identical but costs much less for verification.

      Note: If a label says "natural" it does not mean it's organic. The natural label is not regulated in America which can be very deceiving. If you ever wonder to yourself, “can organic be GMO?”, make sure you are looking for the "organic" label.

      Warning: Some Organic Foods May Still Contain Harmful Chemicals

      If health is your main priority, the best course of action is to select unprocessed organic foods whenever possible. But, it's still equally important to check the nutrition label for any unhealthy ingredients.

      Some organic foods may still contain harmful ingredients including:

      Hidden MSG

      While monosodium glutamate (MSG) cannot be used on organic food, there are several other free glutamic acid compounds that organic foods may contain.

      Avoid buying organic foods with these ingredients:

      • Hydrolyzed soy protein
      • Autolyzed yeast extract
      • Textured protein
      • Yeast extract

      These chemicals are used to make food taste better but they're also considered excitotoxins. This means they're known to overstimulate your neuron receptors which can lead to headaches, skin problems, and water retention.

      Vegetable Oils

      Vegetable oils including canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil are linked to increased inflammation and metabolic disease.

      If you see any of these vegetable oils in the ingredients list of organic foods, it’s best to look for a healthier alternative without these pro-inflammatory oils.

      We're Proud to Be a Snack Verified By the Non-GMO Project 

      We know just how important it is to have food products sourced from all-natural methods. Our mission is to provide the world with the healthiest meat snacks you can find on the market.

      CHOMPS is non-GMO verified and we ensure that our meat comes from animals who followed sustainable, no-chemical diets. They are raised without any hormones or antibiotics.

      We source only 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Our animals are never sent to feedlots and are never given antibiotics or hormones. Our birds are free to roam the pastures. All of our animals are fed diets that comply with the Non-GMO Project Verification regulations to ensure the entire food chain has no GMOs.

      Our prioritization of free-range, grass-fed sources provides you with the healthiest, non-GMO verified snack available, without having to worry about unnecessary fillers, hormones, or antibiotics. Learn more about CHOMPS all natural jerky!

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      Lorenz Macasadia

      Lorenz Macasadia

      Lorenz Mac is full-time freelance health & wellness copywriter and content marketer devoted to spreading the knowledge of the ketogenic diet and proper nutrition protocols to the masses. He writes articles and marketing pieces like email copy for several companies who advocate similar values in the industry.