Non-GMO Labels Are Popping Up Everywhere
Have you noticed a proliferation of Non-GMO labels on food products? In every section of the grocery store – from the beverage aisle to the meat department – it seems that more foods than ever are sporting this important label. While we’re fans of food-label transparency and steering clear of genetically modified ingredients (you notice we post it right at the front of our site) , we’ve noticed that sometimes a GMO-free label can be confusing. For example, if one bottled water is labeled as GMO-free and another is not, does that mean it contains GMOs? And what about the appearance of this label in the dairy and meat sections? Could these foods contain GMOs? We’ve decided to dig deeper.
What foods are genetically modified?
There are 11 genetically modified crops: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, squash, Arctic apples, innate potato, and aquabounty salmon.
If a food product doesn’t contain one of these ingredients, it’s naturally going to be free from GMOs. Yes, that bottled water with a Non-GMO label is just as GMO-free as the water that sits next to it on the shelf.
But things can easily get tricky
When a food product contains many ingredients, rather than scrutinizing that list, looking for a Non-GMO Project Verified label is the easiest way to assure that the food is GMO-free. And remember, some of the most ubiquitous food ingredients (sugar, corn and soy) are GMO crops. If foods that contain those ingredients aren’t Certified Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified you can be sure they’re genetically modified. Here’s a list of popular healthy foods that contain GMOs.
What about dairy and meat?
You’ll notice that dairy and meat aren’t on the list of GMO foods, yet Non-GMO labels are increasingly popping up in these sections of the grocery store. What’s up with that? The answer lies in taking a closer look at how much GMO food we’re growing and who’s buying it. In the US, 88 percent of all corn grown is genetically modified. That number is even higher for soybeans at 94 percent. Most genetically modified corn is not the corn on the cob we gobble up in the summer, so where is this GM-corn going? Some does land in food products but most genetically modified corn and soy grown is actually bought by the commercial animal feed industry.
In fact, the pervasiveness of GMOs in animal feed makes it hard for organic producers to secure uncontaminated feed, GMOinsider.org reports. In the United States, in order to avoid animal products that have not been influenced by GMO animal feed, consumers have to look for certified organic products (since organic standards prohibit the intentional use of GMOs) or for the Non-GMO Project Verified certification for meat, eggs, and dairy products.
The bottom line on GMOs?
For products that contain few naturally GMO-free ingredients (like bottled water) don’t worry that lack of this label means it’s ridden with GMOs. It’s very possible that the manufacturer didn’t pursue verification simply because there’s no threat.
Any product with multiple ingredients (5 plus) a Non-GMO Project Verification or Organic Certification means it’s GMO-free. Looking for these labels means you don’t have to pull out your magnifying glass.
For meat, dairy and all other animal-derived food products, there’s a good chance the animal was fed GM-feed unless it’s certified organic or Non-GMO Project Verified. This included bison and lamb, which in the U.S. are often pasture raised but grain finished. When buying these meats, ensure they’re grass fed and grass finished to avoid GMOs.