What’s the Difference Between Non GMO and Organic?

Organic_Fruit_Is_Non_GMOFor the last five weeks I’ve been encouraging my Back-To-School Transformation Challengers to eat more fruits and veggies. Combined with a consistent exercise routine, good lifelong habits can be formed. I’ve shared eating plans and exercise videos to keep folks motivated during these intense six weeks. We talk a lot about food, nutrition, metabolism and weight loss. This question came up that’s worthy of talking about: What’s the difference between non GMO and organic foods?.

What is GMO?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. It’s been around for at least two decades as food manufacturers wanted to create crops that were more pest and drought resistant.  They can be plants or animals where scientists have altered DNA to create desired traits (e.g., disease resistant or pesticide tolerant).  Bill Freese at the Center for Food Safety says ” GMOs are present in 60 to 70% of foods on US supermarket shelves.” He goes onto to say that the vast majority of processed foods contain GMOs. Even some fruits and veggies have undergone genetic engineering, including:

  • Hawaiian papayas
  • Some zucchini, crookneck and straightneck squash
  • 90% of corn on the cob
  • Milk with RGBH (a genetically modified variation of a hormone injected into dairy cows to increase production)
  • “Natural foods” as there isn’t a strict definition of what constitutes natural food.Organic_Fruit

The good news is that no meat, fish and poultry products have been approved for direct human consumption. Yet.

Surprising foods that aren’t genetically engineered:

  • Potatoes
  • Seedless watermelon
  • Salmon
  • 93% of Soy milk
  • Rice

The biggest scare about GMO foods is the environmental effect of farming of genetically engineered crops doused with pesticides.  Some scientists fear that GMOs can cause allergies in humans.

What is Organic?

Since 1990’s, USDA organic standards have prohibited GM ingredients. So if you eat organic foods, you are eating non GMO foods. Sadly the US is not among the 64 developed (and developing) countries that require GMO food labeling.

And the Answer Is….

Ok, back to our original question. What’s the difference between non GMO and organic? If you eat organic you are eating non GMO foods. If you eat food labeled as “natural,” you may be eating GMO. Lastly, you can be eating foods that haven’t been genetically tampered with… but are still treated with pesticides…and hence not organic.  I encourage my fitness clients to buy organic whenever possible and practical. That’s what I serve my family. So when you eat organic you are eating non GMO foods.

Now that you know the difference between non GMO and organic, what will find its way into your supermarket basket?


Image credits:

Fruit cups:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/fisherkate/3176292067/