A lot of news buzz surrounds the labeling of organic and non-GMO products both on the market and in skin-care. Health bloggers, magazines, and other publications consistently highlight the importance of making careful selections of foodstuffs bearing the labels that signify the lack of GMOs and chemical pesticides. Amidst all the headlines, hashtags, and hot topics regarding organic and non-GMO foods, much confusion arises regarding the differences between the two labels from the USDA Organic Certification and the Non-GMO Project Verification.
So, what are the differences between the two? And how does one attain the seals on their product labels? Each organization has a set of guidelines and requirements that the companies seeking these labels must reach in order to brand their products with the proud seals. We dish out details on the processes involved to acquire each of them, and which one holds more trust and value in ensuring the safety and quality of the products. Discover the differences often left in the background, and get an edge over your health-nut friends with this exclusive look into the certification smack down.
The two organizations that provide the prized label seals include the National Organic Program and the Non-GMO Project. Each of these organizations use a standard set of guidelines and regulations to ensure that the products receiving the seals maintain the standards of either organic or non-GMO ingredients. See the guidelines for each and how they differ to discover the differences between an organic product versus a product that does not contain GMOs.
Regulated and run by the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Organic Program uses a process-based authentication that requires farmers to employ a set of authorized practices to ensure their organic certification. To obtain the ‘organic’ seal on products, the program requires the prohibition of GMOs, site-specific system plans, and yearly inspections headed by third party regulators to confirm the facility’s cooperation.
In order to obtain the organic seal, the farmers and producers must follow set guidelines. One of these guidelines requires that ninety five to one hundred percent of the ingredients used must have organic certification. During the growing and making process, the producer may not use any chemical ingredients or fertilizers, synthetic substances, irradiation, sewage sludge or genetically modified organisms. As for livestock, farmers may not provide the animals with synthetic hormones or antibiotics if they wish to label their meats as organic.
Unlike the National Organic Program, the Non-GMO Project works as a separate establishment outside of governmentally run organizations. Its main focus is to ensure that foods bearing its seal do not contain GMOs alone. While it only focuses on the provision of non-GMO foods as opposed to the full spectrum of requirements for organic, it uses a more rigorous testing system than the National Organic Program. Where bearing the label ‘organic’ only requires an annual log-check of ingredients and substances, the Non-GMO Project requires higher verification standards.
As North America’s one and only third party with sole goal of ensuring products that do not contain GMOs, the Non-GMO Project uses a system modeled similar to that of the European Union’s laws to ensure no GMOs make it into the foods. Its process-based system requires continuous traceability, regular lab-testing of ingredients, and the separation of non-GMO foods from GMO foods. Any more than .09 percent of genetically modified ingredients does not meet their standards, and must be labeled as such. Products bearing its seal must adhere to the following guidelines.
The Non-GMO Project requires the continuous and regular testing of all ingredients deemed at-risk. Such ingredients include: alfalfa, corn, papaya, cotton, yellow squash, milk, meat, honey, eggs, and soy. The project also oversees reviews of ingredients with a lower risk of containing genetically modified ingredients. Finally, it participates in yearly audits conducted on the production sites to look for high risk ingredients. Once the producer’s compliance and integrity of the final product are confirmed, the product earns its seal.
So, we know that foods labeled ‘organic’ must meet the standards of having no contact with chemicals or other potentially harmful substances, while containing no GMOs. Foods labeled as ‘non-GMO’ undergo rigorous testing to ensure the lack of genetically modified ingredients alone. While organic seals seem to represent a broader spectrum of food protection than that of the non-GMO seal, what really lies behind the two organizations? And which is more trustworthy?
A few surface differences become obvious, especially to those familiar with shopping for healthier options or alternatives. First and foremost, foods labeled solely with Non-GMO Project verification tend on the cheaper side than their USDA Organic Certified counterparts. So, if you want healthier options on a budget, then opt for the Non-GMO Project’s seal of verification. Second, where non-GMO verification often includes only meats, animal product, and processed foods, organic certification extends to fresh produce and whole foods as well.
If you wish to eat foods that usually do not contain GMOs, and are also less likely to have made contact with chemicals and synthetic materials, then opt for the USDA Organic certification. However, some loopholes allow for the strictness of these regulations to fall through the cracks. Some ingredients may contain genetically modified foodstuffs or have made contact chemical pesticides, if those substances make that five percentile range of ingredients. The National Organic Standards Board has also been reported to weaken and lower its standards as a result of corporation lobbyists – including companies like Monsanto.
However, if you want to get the best of both worlds with optimal protection, then look for foods bearing both seals on their labels. This is the best way to ensure the quality and standard to which your groceries are made. Over half of the products bearing the Non-GMO Project’s verification also have the USDA Organic certification. The Non-GMO Project stays on par with its strict regulations against genetically modified organisms as an independent group, and the USDA Organic certification can still offer refuge from a vast amount of synthetic chemicals that would otherwise make contact with your foods.
You can learn the ins and outs of grocery selection with your face naturals family. We do our best to provide you with the information you need to make educated decisions on how to nourish yourself and your community. Since we fully understand the importance of recognizing labels and the public’s right to stay informed, we write our blogs to reflect the health issues that concern you and those surrounding you.
Join the conversation below by leaving a comment about whether you select organically certified products, non-GMO verified products, or both. Tell us why you made that decision. You can also check out our other blogs regarding the importance of labeling on our food products to further inform yourself. Contact us further for information on our non-GMO, organic skin-care products created to heal your skin.
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