Home Body Understanding the meaning of the NON-GMO and USDA Organic labels

Understanding the meaning of the NON-GMO and USDA Organic labels

by Sean Martu

When I go grocery shopping I refuse to buy foods, especially processed foods that do not have either the USDA Organic and/or the NON-GMO labels, but I much prefer the USDA Organic label. The only time I ignore these labels is when I go to European import stores, more notably Russian, as many European countries have banned GMO’s in particular Russia.

But the “USDA Organic” Label and the Non-GMO label are not what most people think. These labels are thought of as absolute when it comes to avoiding Frankenstein foods, but the Devil is in the details which I will elucidate below.

These labels only reveal part of what we need to know not to put poison in our bodies. But I’ll enlighten my readers to this, there is actually a”USDA 100% Organic” label, meaning the “USDA Organic” label does not have to be 100% organic.

What entails the USDA Organic Label

There are four labeling categories for organic products – 100% Organic, Organic, “made with” Organic Ingredients, and Specific Organic Ingredients.

USDA 100% Organic <– This is the label I never see

In this category, products must be made up of 100 percent certified organic ingredients.  The label must include the name of the certifying agent and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the 100 percent organic claim.

USDA Organic <- This is the label I always see

In the “Organic” category, the product and ingredients must be certified organic, except where specified on National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.  Non-organic ingredients allowed per the National List may be used, but no more than five percent of the combined total ingredients may contain non-organic content.  Additionally, the label must include the name of the certifying agent, and may include the USDA Organic Seal and/or the organic claim.

“made with” Organic Ingredients

For multi-ingredient products in the “made with” organic category, at least 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients.  The organic seal cannot be used on the product, and the final product cannot be represented as organic – only up to three ingredients or ingredient categories can be represented as organic.  Any remaining ingredients are not required to be organically produced but must be produced without excluded methods (genetic engineering). All non-agricultural products must be allowed on the National List.  For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

Specific Organic Ingredients

Multi-ingredient products with less than 70 percent certified organic content would fall under the “specific organic ingredients,” and don’t need to be certified. These products cannot display the USDA Organic Seal or use the word organic on the principal display panel.  They can list certified organic ingredients in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients.

What entails the NON-GMO Label?

This label is primarily for processed foods, and it verifies that none of the ingredients used in the product were genetically engineered.

NON-GMO vs USDA Organic

The USDA Organic label is not perfect, especially with the “no more than five percent of the combined total ingredients may contain non-organic content” statement. But the NON-GMO label does not protect the consumer from harmful pesticides, herbicides, and chemical food additives. I believe in many cases the pesticides and herbicides such as Round-Ups Glyphosate are potentially worse than the GMO’S.

In reality, the best way to protect your health is to eat Organic whole foods, avoid processed foods, and cook more, you can learn how to cook anything on Youtube. Even if the processed food item you’re buying is 100% Organic, which I’ve never seen, all processed foods are extremely nutritionally deficient, so it’s best to cook your own food from scratch.



US Department of Agriculture: Understanding the USDA Organic Label

NON-GMO Project: Non-GMO Project Verification

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