Explaining the real difference between Organic and GMO

Many consumers find the difference between organic and GMO a puzzle, or genetically modified organisms. A lot of people ask questions like “Is organic non-GMO?” and “How do GMOs compare to organic food?”. Answers to these questions can help you make better sense of what you’re feeding yourself and your loved ones. Here’s a helpful write up to boost your knowledge and inform your nutritional choices in 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines GMOs as organisms whose genetic material or DNA has been altered or modified in some way that does not occur naturally. In most cases, genetic engineering works by transferring individual genes from one organism to another. Most commonly found in crops such as soybeans, corn and canola, GMOs are designed to provide a higher nutritional value to food, as well as protect crops against pests.

Organic foods, on the other hand, do not contain any pesticides, fertilizers, solvents or additives. Organic foods are grown and processed according to strict guidelines that cover everything from soil quality and pest control. Similarly, organic livestock raised for meat, eggs and dairy products must be given organic feed, and cannot receive antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal by-products.

Is organic non-GMO?

There’s plenty of debate surrounding GMO and organic food, which can make grocery shopping a tough experience. Making a key distinction can go a long way in making the right choices.

For those looking to avoid the use of chemical pesticides, along with the high costs of organic food, non-GMO products are a viable alternative. That’s because non-GMO products don’t contain any GMO ingredients. However, that doesn’t mean they are grown organically. Organic is and always has been non-GMO. Understanding the pros and cons of both options can also empower consumers. 

Why GMO?

Lower price point for consumers, lower production costs for farmers, greater durability and/or nutritional value for health benefits, increased resistance among crops to plant diseases caused by insects or viruses, tastier and more nutritious foods, increased supply of food with reduced costs and longer shelf life.

Why organic?

No use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, no use of genetically engineered—or modified—organisms, healthier soil through organic farming practices such as crop rotation, organic meats don’t contain any growth hormones, animals raised organically aren’t given any antibiotics and organic soil better conserves water.

So what are the shortcomings of GMOs and organic items? Common arguments against GMOs include the consumption of harmful bacteria and toxins and increased risk of allergic reaction.

Opponents of organic food argue that it’s significantly more expensive than GMO or non-GMO foods, has a shorter shelf life compared to GMO foods and may have higher bacteria levels due to limited pesticide and herbicide usage. The core question now is how to make the right choice for you and your family. Both categories of food non-GMO and organic are subject to strict guidelines. A clear understanding can go a long way in making the right choices.  

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