June 2018

Reader Q+A

Is GMO-free the same as Organic? I hear conflicting info.

No, GMO-free is not the same as Organic. However, for a product to be Organic, it must among other requirements, be free of genetic engineering (commonly referred to as Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs).

Organic products must meet National Organic Program rules as defined and regulated by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) branch of USDA. These rules include how the product is grown, processed, shipped and stored. Specifically, these regulations prohibit genetic engineering (GE) and require that farmers and processors show they do not use GE seeds or ingredients and they are protecting their products from cross-contact with these substances.

AMS just issued a proposed rule on May 4, 2018, to establish a federal standard for the labeling of bioengineered foods and ingredients. The comment period is open through July 3, 2018. When finalized, the rule is intended to harmonize definitions and requirements across all states and municipalities. In the meantime, independent third-party organizations are available to certify products as Non-GMO if desired.