Natural, Organic & Non-GMO: What’s the Difference?

Abigail Blank - The Upside Blog |

by | Updated: December 3rd, 2016 | Read time: 2 minutes

With the changing landscape of our food supply, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the terms and labels (or lack thereof) being used now. I’m breaking it down and putting the info into easy to understand language so you can be educated and empowered when choosing food and products for your family.

Non-GMO vs. Organic

If the label says “All Natural”:

This means absolutely nothing. There is no guideline assigned by the FDA for labeling something “all natural.” Basically, a company can put this label on their product and it could be filled with chemicals, carcinogens and manufactured food-like products.

If the label says “Organic”:

When a product labels itself “organic” it must contain at least 95% organic ingredients (this excludes water and salt). That means that the product or food item is free from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and artificial ingredients. From your crackers to your mascara, you can rest assured you are making a relatively safe choice. Yet, it should be noted that this label still allows for ingredients such as carrageenan and soy lecithin. This is noted with the “USDA ORGANIC” symbol.

When it’s labeled 100% Certified Organic”:

Any product or food labeled “100% Organic” or “100% Certified Organic” must meet very specific criteria including certification that all included ingredients are organic, the product or food has been harvested or processed organically and the certifying agency must be identified. By FDA law, certified organic products cannot contain any genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which means these foods and products are also non-GMO. This is also noted with the “USDA ORGANIC” label.

When it’s labeled “Project Non-GMO Verified”:

Some companies want to make sure you have as much information as possible about the food you are buying. These companies willingly apply for a Project Non-GMO Verified seal. To earn this seal, the company must submit their product for testing and  prove their segregation and traceability practices are rigorously maintained to prevent contamination. But, if you see a product that claims to be “GMO free” and does not have the “Project Non-GMO Verified” seal, that does not guarantee a non-GMO product as no independent verification has been obtained and currently there is no legal standard for making such a claim.