Organic or Non-GMO: Which is More Important?

Abigail Blank - The Upside Blog |

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

There are many concerns over the state of our food supply today. We are confronted with a deluge of information about organic and non-GMO foods, some scientific and some less so. What has become challenging for many people is deciphering what is safe and what is a risk to the health of their family and themselves. Not only that, but it can be difficult for consumers to know if the higher prices for many of these foods are really worth it or if it is another fad sweeping across the nation.

Guy in Plaid Shirt Holding Basket of Non-GMO and Organic Vegetables |

Organic food has been swiftly gaining ground in mainstream American culture. What was once considered a subset of the natural and holistic movement has become an integral part of modern food culture. As the popularity of organic food has risen, so too has its availability. In previous years, organic food was generally perceived to be something only the elite of society could afford to buy. Yet as awareness of the potential health hazards from continued pesticide exposure increased, as well as the blatant ecological effects, the demand for organic food began to rise.

Though some organic foods, usually those which are processed, still carry a notably higher price tag than their commercially produced counterparts, the cost of organic fruit and vegetables has become negligible as more and more farmers are turning to organic practices, making fresh organic food more accessible to a larger portion of consumers.

What has accompanied awareness of pesticides and their deleterious effects is the much lesser known, and more controversial, issue of genetically modified foods. Commonly referred to as GMOs (genetically modified organisms), these foods have been altered at the genetic level, using advanced scientific methods to alter the natural state. Some of the most common genetically modified crops include soy, corn, papaya, potatoes, sugar beets, squash and apples. Most of these GMO foods were quietly introduced into the food supply int he mid-1990s. While some have been modified to fight or prevent various crop threats like disease or pests, some have been modified for appearance or even the ability to withstand higher levels pesticide exposure.

What to look for on labels

It can be difficult to decide what is the safest choice for you and your family. Many factors come into play when choosing how to feed your family. Cost, as well as availability, are large influencers in the decision making process.

Organic food, and the ability to label food as such, is strictly regulated. Farmers must meet specific requirements in how their handle crops, treat their soil, and manage pests and insects in order to qualify for the “100% organic” label. The food must also be free of any genetically modified organisms to carry this label.

There currently is no mandated standard for claiming a food is non-GMO. Any food product can purport to be “non-GMO” without having to pass any testing to back their claims. The only true certification available right now is done voluntarily by each producer through the Verified Non-GMO Project. This is the only label which will guarantee the absence of GMOs. It is important to also keep in mind that just because something does not contain any GMOs does not mean that it is organic. Organic methods of farming are not part of the criteria for this certification.

The upside to both

Although organic and non-GMO foods are becoming more widely available, there are still many regions of the country where access is limited and somewhat cost-prohibitive. Often, people find only high-end and specialty grocers in their area carry organic or non-GMO foods. Luckily as demand is increasing, many large grocery chains are beginning to offer a selection of organic produce.

As education and awareness increases, our food supply will continue to grown and change to meet the expectations of the consumer, which means no matter what you choose, organic or non-GMO, you are still affecting change with your purchasing power and investing in a safer, healthier future to come.

Tip: the best place to buy organic foods & snacks is at!