It Says Organic: Does That Mean It’s Non GMO?

non GMO food products

USDA certified organic non GMO Wheat

GMO or non GMO? That is the question….

Lately, GMO products have been hit with some bad publicity. I recently went to a local grocery store in Palatine, Illinois and took a photo of this USDA Organic certified wheat package. In case you can’t see it, this is a whole wheat Gemelli brand wheat product with the fancy USDA Organic logo. However, an organic label alone does not guarantee that you are getting a non GMO product.

What’s the Difference?

non gmo use graph

The agriculture industry has decided the answer to the question for you: “GMO or non GMO?” .

The difference is what each of these terms describe. The term organic is used to define how a product is grown. GMO and non GMO are adjectives that describe whether the product is genetically altered in some way. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. An organism that is genetically modified can still be grown organically.

GMO plants have their genetic code changed in a way deemed beneficial by scientists, not by nature.  Before 1997 the USDA Organic label did not specify whether or not the produce grown organically was non GMO or if GMO plants needed to be excluded from the definition of organic. Over the years the USDA has changed it’s stance.

The USDA government website states that,

USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use…

These standards cover the product from farm to table, including soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.

Organic farms and processors:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

These standards specifically state that USDA certified organic products are in fact non GMO products as well. This is not necessarily true for all organic standards and certainly has not been true at all times in the past.

According to,

In 1997, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its draft National Organic Program rule. At this time, they proposed that organic allow the use of GMOs. This proposal was unacceptable to consumers, manufacturers, retailers, farmers, and basically anyone who had anything to do with organic.

The battle ended with consumers and farmers reigning victorious.

The final rule outlines that an organic operation has to document that it has not used GMOs and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with GMOs. Whether a product is labeled “100% organic,” “certified organic” (with an allowance of 5% non-organic ingredients) or “made with organic” (a minimum of 70% organic ingredients), none of the ingredients are permitted to use genetic engineering.

That means in a “made with organic” cereal containing 70 percent organic ingredients, the remaining 30 percent non-organic ingredients cannot be produced from genetic engineering. Providers of non-organic ingredients being used in organic products, must also be able to provide proof that their ingredients are non GMO.

So the USDA Organic certification on a product is the government’s guarantee that these products will contain only non GMO ingredients. If you want to avoid GMO products and go only for the non GMO, then this is as sure of a bet as you can get at the grocery store.

non gmo map

Want to go non GMO in he US? Good luck.

How To Tell If A Product is Non GMO

If you don’t want to buy exclusively USDA certified organic products but would still like to eat non GMO foods there is another way to go about your grocery shopping. It is common for produce to use short numbers called PLU codes, or price-look-ups, to indicate what kind of product is behind the label. It can be used to indicate manufacturer, color, etc. It is often used to indicate growing conditions. The major benefit of the PLU system is that each PLU code is unique to each product, regardless of where you buy it. This is key for those people going the non GMO route.

The PLU Code user guide states that:

The IFPS shall be responsible for deciding the assignment and definition of qualifying prefix digits
for international recognition. At present, only three digits have been allocated:

0 Applies to all non-qualified produce and is generally presented without the leading
“zero” digit.
8 Genetically modified
9 Organic

This means that if the PLU code is five digits the first digit indicates organic or genetically modified, but it is not mandatory for the producer to specify if they do not want to. If the PLU code is four digits, then PLU code will not indicate whether the product is GMO or non GMO. While it is not currently a requirement in the United States to label GMO produce, in the USA and Canada, food manufacturers are not allowed to label their food as 100% organic if any GMOs are used.  To be 100% certain that your food is organic: look for an organic label, a 9 at the beginning of a 5 digit PLU code, or just grown your own.



Sources: USDA says “organic” means “non GMO” Organic Agriculture National Organic Standard

International Federation of Produce Standards

IFPS- Produce PLU Codes User Guide

Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?

Organic Food Council- Certified Food Logos

Snopes- PLU Codes

I Believe in GMOs


There is a seemingly never ending stream of controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There appears to be two polar opposite views on the subject. In one camp, there are people who are happy to see a new science become incorporated into a system that could potentially offer tremendous support to the food industry and help to feed millions. In the other camp are individuals who go so far as to claim that they “know” that GMO’s cause cancer and that they will undoubtedly destroy the environment. So which is it? Like most issues, the subject of GMO’s is not black and white.

First, let’s discuss what a GMO actually is. A GMO is any organism that has a gene from another organism artificially inserted into its genome. Why would we want to do this? We can take a desirable trait from one species and incorporate it into another. Now for a lot of people, that’s all they need to hear. They immediately assume that this process will result in a dangerous plant or animal that could pose a risk to the environment, the consumer, or both. I disagree with this broad sentiment. The simple act of modifying an organism genetically does not tell us if it will be harmful or beneficial. That depends on which genes have been introduced and what their by-products will be. For example, a new GMO plant that produces a pesticide within itself that is poisonous to humans is, obviously, likely going to be detrimental when the gene product (the pesticide) is eaten. However, if the gene codes for an enzyme that helps the plant resist drought, for example, this gene will likely have no effect on whoever eats it.

Let’s look at an example: tomatoes with a gene from a fish. Here, a gene from a cold water fish was introduced into the tomato’s genome. This inserted gene codes for an “antifreeze” protein that helps prevent the fish (and in this case the tomato) from freezing in cold climates. This genetic change simply introduces the antifreeze protein into the tomato. If one wants to claim that eating a tomato that expresses this protein is dangerous, then it is similar to saying you should never eat tomatoes and fish together, since your stomach would end up with the same combination of proteins (from the tomato and the fish). The point I want to get across here is that it’s not the process of genetically modifying an organism that is dangerous. What determines if it is dangerous or not to the consumer is what the newly introduced gene will express in the new organism.

The second major concern people have about GMOs is their potential impact on the environment. I feel that this is a more legitimate concern. If a GMO proves to be more resilient, bigger, faster, or simply better able to survive than it’s natural counterpart, then the GMO could potentially become an invasive species and out compete the original native species if it is introduced into the environment. This could potentially have dire consequences on the environment as the biodiversity of the ecosystem in question could be greatly reduced if one species begins to take over. GMO producers attempt to avoid this situation by producing organisms that will be incapable of producing naturally in the wild. For example, genetically modified salmon are engineered to be sterile, so even if they escape into the environment they will soon die off. As long as the proper precautions are taken, the likelihood of a GMO devastating the environment can be minimal.

The potential benefits of GMOs are obvious: the ability to grow more nutritious food faster and in areas where these foods could not be produced before. This opens the opportunity for many starving parts of the world to become less dependent on food imports. It is primarily for this reason that I think the pursuit of GMO production is worthwhile. What will determine whether a given GMO proves to be beneficial or not, depends on the initial intentions of the genetic engineers. If we focus on being able to increase yield and nutrition while decreasing the use of pesticides and antibiotics, I believe that GMOs can be invaluable for our future. If, however, GMOs are designed with strictly economical goals in mind, then the potential to do harm is great. I feel strongly that GMO research should be government funded with these positive goals in mind, and not pursued solely by private corporations looking to capitalize on control of the world’s food supply.

I for one will continue to support GMO research because of its massive potential to help the world. As Uncle Ben said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Let’s make sure that we don’t damage our world, but let’s also not get caught up in hysteria and block the advancement of science.



Can Genetically Modified Corn Form Tumors in the Body?

If you are planning on prolonging your life and evading this cancer frenzy, you should be careful of which breakfast cereals and tortilla chips you choose. If you are not aware of the negative effects of wheat, a quick glance about wheat and what gluten is won’t hurt, but read on to learn about yet another daily source of negative possibilities.

Most of the consumed corn in the United States is genetically modified. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Caen connecting genetically modified corn and long term effects on health, it can cause rapid and uncontrollable tumor growth as well as damage organs. This has been already tested on research rats. We can be thankful to Monsanto for the GM maize and their fertilizer, which in trace amounts is enough to cause the aforementioned wreck along with premature death.

According to the same site, this genetically modified maize that we all consume, also known as NK603, even in the smallest quantities has made the rats form tumors in the mammary glands as well as develop liver and kidney damage. The male rats exhibited the observable effects as early as 4 months, and female rats as early as 7 months. The control group observed the effects within twenty-three and fourteen months respectively.

Here is a quick list of some the facts from the study

  • Between 50 to 80 per cent of female rats developed large tumours by the beginning of the 24th month, with up to three tumours per animal. Only 30 per cent of the control rats developed tumours

  • Up to 70 per cent of females died prematurely compared with only 20 per cent in the control group

  • Tumours in rats of both sexes fed the GM corn were two to three times larger than in the control group

  • The large tumours appeared in females after seven months, compared to 14 months in the control group. The team said the tumours were ‘deleterious to health due to a very large size’, making it difficult for the rats to breathe and causing digestive problems

Shortly after the release of this study RT reports that:

The national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, sciences, technology and veterinary studies issued a joint statement condemning the findings on Monsanto’s NK603 corn, which were published last month by molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen.

RT also reports that Seralini’s study also:

earned widespread criticism for its methodology. Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King’s College London, saying the study was a “statistical fishing trip,”manipulated from the start to achieve a specific result.

This later report was released and backed by two government-commissioned scientific reviews, however Monsanto has a bit of a history of manipulating governments and placing itself in a seat of power.

Genetically modified food is a very controversial debate with many sides to the story. In the mean time we should think about what we’re putting into our bodies and make sure to always read labels when buying food.






The Grocer- Monsanto Roundup Weedkiller and GM Maize Implicated in ‘Shocking’ New Cancer Study

Wondergressive- Save the Food Pyramid by Cutting it by the Limbs

Wondergressive- Natural, Living Pesticides

International Journal of Biological Sciences- A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health

Mail Online- Cancer row over GM foods as study says it did THIS to rats… and can cause organ damage and early death in humans

RT- Good crop, bad crop: French scientists dismiss Monsanto ‘cancer corn’ study

Global Research- Obama Gives Key Agriculture Post to Monsanto Man

Wondergressive- And the Court Battle Begins Between David and Goliath, Bowman and Monsanto

Wondergressive- I Believe in GMOs