USDA Organic vs. NON GMO Project labeling

I'm sure you must have come across these two labels many times while shopping for your groceries. Have you ever been wondering what's their difference and how to understand their meaning correctly? It was bugging me for quite a bit before I was able to find all answers. It happened not once that I got to choose between two products where the first product had one label and the second one the other. Now what? Which one do I prefer? Do I need to buy only the products with both labels? Let me give a quick overview and a short explanation that helps you differentiate between those two.

In order to achieve organic certification the United States of Agriculture (USDA) requires farmers and producers to follow only approved methods.
If you buy products with this label, you can be sure that :
  • 95 - 100% ingredients in your product are certified as organic, the other 5% like salt and water cannot contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • no chemical fertilizers, synthetic substances, irradiation and sewage sludge were used in the process
  • no use of antibiotics in meat marked as organic
  • livestock is fed 100% organic
  • verification is carried out through 3rd party inspections annually
Non-GMO Project is an only independent, and non-profit organization that tests non-GMO products. The product testing is conducted at various stages of production. However despite their inspection process, this organization cannot legally claim products to be "GMO free" because the contamination risks to seeds, crops, and ingredients are too high. The product testing requires :
  • ongoing testing of all at-risk ingredients
  • an Action Threshold of 0.9% (which means that the labeled products must contain no more than 0.9% GMO) while absence of all GMOs is the target
  • rigorous traceability and segregation practices need to be followed
  • regular inspections for high-risk products and annual audits


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