Is there a difference between organic and non-GMO foods? A group of organic farmers is hoping to reduce customer confusion on the issue with a new organic certification seal called “Organic is Non-GMO & More.”
The new label is certainly a mouthful, but a justifiably long label claim, says California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the group behind the label, considering the growing concern over organic and non-GMO foods in recent years.
While no federal regulations presently exist for labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients, the USDA does regulate use of the certified organic label claim with its USDA organic seal. Still, customers don’t necessarily know what organic means specifically, or how it relates to the presence (or absence) of GMOs. The Non-GMO Project, with its own unique seal, adds more confusion to the food discussion with its third party certification for non-GMO products.
“Organic is the original non-GMO standard,” Jake Lewin, president of CCOF certification services, who was closely involved with the creation of the new seal, told Specialty Food News, but the concern over what makes organic more than just GMO-free was a big part of the incentive behind the program. “This was our effort to provide a tool and a pathway to addressing those concerns,” Lewin said.
According to Specialty Food News, a “number of plans are in place to build awareness of what goes into organic certification”—which is why the new label includes the vague “and more” reference in the seal’s tagline. The group is hoping it’s enticing enough to engage consumers and help them to become more educated and informed about their food choices.
“[W]e are working very hard to be responsible around implementing the standards around GMOs, including GMO testing within our certification program and paying very close attention and advocating for ongoing standards and guidance in regard to GMOs,” Lewin said.
Even if federal guidelines for labeling genetically modified foods do happen, they’re not likely to be implemented anytime soon. As is the case in Vermont, where a GMO labeling bill passed, the biotech and big ag industries are appealing the ruling, which could, at the very least, hold up the implementation of the labeling law, if not completely void it.
But do we really need another label on our food? Won’t this just confuse consumers further? It might. But when it comes to the benefits of organic farming, there’s a lot more to the benefits, CCOF says on its website, than is being understood by most consumers, and it's worth the effort to get that information out there.
“Organic standards promote and enhance biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil fertility, and restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony,” CCOF says. “The legacy of organic will be the catalyzation [sic] of healthy, sustainable, and humane production systems. CCOF believes that organic standards should continually evolve to address a broadening range of issues.”
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Image via CCOF