Tips to Help You Cut Through the Confusion of Non-GMO Food Labeling

Shopping basket fruit and vegetables isolated on white


Shopping basket fruit and vegetables isolated on white

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been the source of controversy over several decades, but it is only in the past few years that the discussion has gone mainstream. Today, foods labeled “non-GMO” are appearing more regularly on supermarket shelves. While this represents a huge step forward in terms of providing consumers with tools they can use to make informed choices about the foods they eat, it also creates confusion over which “GMO-free” claims are legitimate. The following tips can help you decide which GMO-free products you want to put in your shopping basket:

  1. Look for The Non-GMO Project verified label. The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent, third-party verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the United States. Any product bearing the seal created by this non-profit group has been produced according to best practices for GMO avoidance. As part of these best practices, manufacturers must offer disclosure on their product if it contains more than 0.9 percent of any GMO ingredient.
  1. Seek out The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Process Verified Program (PVP) label. The USDA PVP program is a voluntary verification service that food manufacturers can participate in to earn recognition for usage of non-GMO ingredients in their products. It is important to note that this designation only refers to specific manufacturing process points and does not certify the final food product.
  1. Look for the manufacturer’s GMO status on the products you are buying. Purchasing a product with a designation such as those offered by The Non-GMO Project or the USDA’s PVP, is preferable because the non-GMO claims are verified by credible third-party sources. However, there are some well-known food manufacturing companies which have made a commitment to using non-GMO ingredients. As with any other purchase, only believe product claims if you can verify they are reputable.
  1. Buy organic products. By law, products labeled “organic” cannot contain any GMO ingredients. In particular, if you are buying corn or soy-based products it makes sense to look at organic options when you are trying to avoid GMOs since corn and soybean crops have the highest rates of genetic modification in our country.

Having the option to purchase non-GMO products is a definite benefit for consumers who are interested in knowing the source of the ingredients in the foods they eat. Using the tips above should help you decipher non-GMO claims on food labels more easily so that you can shop for your groceries with confidence.

For those unfamiliar with what GMOs are, here is a quick overview:

GMO plants or animals are created when their cells are inserted with genes from an unrelated species with the purpose of giving them specific characteristics. While GMO crops have been part of our food supply for the past several decades, no genetically engineered animals have been approved for sale for human consumption in the United States.

One of the primary purposes of developing GMOs is to create a more pest-resistant and abundant food supply (i.e. crops that can withstand herbicides and provide enhanced yields); however, some critics believe that GMO foods are associated with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency oversee the safety of GMOs. According to the FDA, genetically modified foods have the same regulations as any other foods.

Jessica Krall is the co-owner of Sow Fresh Farm Market, a family-owned and operated farm market located at 4497 N. Adrian Highway in Adrian, Michigan. The market is open year-round providing a wide selection of healthful specialty foods and during Michigan’s growing season a variety of the fruits and vegetables raised on the Krall family’s southeast Michigan farm.

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