Non-GMO has become a more popular term over the past few years. Almost every supermarket is starting to carry product labeled with Non- GMO Project Verified. Analyst project Non-GMO food sales to grow at a compounding annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.23% between 2017 and 2021, which far exceeds the growth of certified organic foods. Non-GMO vs certified organic, which is better? Is it worth spending the extra money on either?
Is Non GMO just a new trend or is it here to stay? Below is a comparison between Non-GMO vs. Certified Organic on Google Trends. As you can see, non GMO has been growing in popularity since 2012. I think it is safe to say it isn’t a fad, but should people care about Non-GMO so much?
Food or product that has not been genetically modified can receive a Non-GMO label. Unfortunately, Non-GMO Project Verified does not mean that 100% of ingredients are GMO free. Non-GMO products can have up to 0.9% genetically modified ingredients. Please note that Non-GMO does not address pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, hormones or any other food quality metric other than GMO free.
Certified Organic Defined
Certified Organic on the other hand means many things. Guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture determine if a product can be labelled as USDA organic. Soil quality, animal care, pest and weed control, and the use of additives are a few of the topics covered in the USDA organic guidelines. To grow organically means natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods are used. To learn more check out organic 101 on the usda.gov website. By definition, if a product is USDA certified organic, it is also Non-GMO and more. To best illustrate the difference, here is a simple comparison chart.
Non-GMO vs Certified Organic Chart
As you can see from the chart below, when comparing Non-GMO vs Certified Organic, it is pretty clear that USDA certified organic is what you should be looking for.
I am not saying you should not value the Non-GMO Project Verified label. If you truly care about the quality of food you are consuming make sure you find products that are USDA certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. In the situation where you can only choose one, go with the USDA certified organic. Ideally you want your food to be both Non-GMO and Certified Organic because that would mean you can buy with confidence knowing two different organizations are certifying the quality of the product you are about to consume.
Where to buy Certified Organic Food
If you live in near Irvine, CA I recommend the following grocery stores to shop for certified organic food.
Personally I like shopping at Spouts for my certified organic and non-GMO food. They have a great selection and their prices are reasonable. They don’t always carry items I need, but overall they offer the best selection of quality food.
Whole Foods Market is probably the largest and most well known of my three recommended grocery stores. They have a wide variety of certified organic and non-GMO products but they are also on the more expensive side. I typically only go to Whole Foods Market if there is a specific item I want that isn’t offered at Sprouts.
Mother’s Market by far wins on variety of certified organic and non GMO food, but they are the most expensive of the three recommended options. I basically only shop at Mother’s Market for items I can’t find at Sprouts or at Wholefoods.