Non-GMO Project Verified Label vs USDA Certified Organic Label – Which is Best?


As the Non-GMO Project Verified label gains in popularity, many people are left wondering if it is as good as the USDA Certified Organic label…or possibly even better than the organic one.

But, which one is REALLY best?

Not only does the USDA Certified Organic label mean that the product is non-GMO, but it also means a whole bunch more. According, to the Organic Trade Association, organic agriculture, which is governed by strict government standards, requires that products bearing the organic label are produced without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering or other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation.

On, the other hand, the Non-GMO Project Verified label ONLY means that the product is non-GMO.

Perhaps the best way to understand the shortcoming when relying on the Non-GMO Project Verified label vs the USDA Certified Organic one is to see what growing practices are accepted to gain each status. This was eloquently covered when an NPR reporter looked at a farmer who grows conventional, Non-GMO Project Verified AND Certified Organic crops:

“A good place to see what this means, in practice, is the farm near Cerro Gordo, Ill., where Allen Williams grows corn, soybeans and a variety of other crops. It’s an unusual farm, because Williams grows crops three different ways: Some are organic, some are “verified non-GMO” and some are genetically modified.

But the way Williams sees it, there are basically two kinds of agriculture here: certified organic and conventional. He considers both the non-GMO and the GMO crops to be conventional, because when it comes to farming practices, both are very similar.

For both of those groups of crops, he uses factory-supplied fertilizers and chemical weedkillers. The only real difference is, he can use a cheaper weedkiller — glyphosate — on the genetically modified soybeans, and spray it right on top of the crops.

Then Williams shows me his organic farming. That’s a whole different system. His organic soybeans are also non-GMO, but that’s only a tiny part of what makes them organic. He points out a huge pile of chicken manure, which he will use as fertilizer. To control the weeds, he doesn’t spray chemicals. Instead, he brings in local high school students who walk the rows and clear out the weeds by hand.” Read the full NPR article here.

As you can see, conventional growing practices such as using chemical weedkillers are utilized when growing the Non-GMO crops. This might come as a shock to many who automatically equate Non-GMO Verified with a chemical-free crop. On the other hand,when it comes to the farmer’s Certified Organic growing practices, he is using non-GMO seed AND completely different and non-chemical fertilizer and pest control mechanisms.

Now that’s food for thought…

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8 Responses to Non-GMO Project Verified Label vs USDA Certified Organic Label – Which is Best?

  1. Betty Phillippi says:

    I think this article is a little misleading, or at least incomplete. While I always go for the organic label when possible, it is really best to have BOTH on a product, according to Jeffrey Smith, the non-GMO guru. His explanation, as I understand it, is that the organic label goes to growers who grow non-GMO varieties (as well as non-pesticide, etc.), but the USDA does not have a mechanism for testing the food to see if it has been contaminated by nearby GMO operations, etc. The non-GMO verified organization, however, does test foods to verify that they are non-GMO AND are not contaminated by GMO. So your best bet is to have both logos on a product.

    • Chelsea Vurciaga says:

      How so? Please elaborate on what is misleading so I can clarify!

      • Betty Phillippi says:

        I believe I did elaborate in my original comment, in which I clarified that it could be simply incomplete, rather than misleading. Unless I misunderstood your article, you seem to be saying to people that they should just look for the “organic” logo and not worry too much about the non-gmo one because that one doesn’t mean as much. I assume you did this because your company may not be planning to bother with having your products tested by the Non-GMO Project, and therefore will not carry that logo. In my comment I explained why I believe it does mean a lot, and people really should be encouraged to look for both logos, and to understand why they are both important.

        • Chelsea Vurciaga says:

          Hi Betty – You are missing that the organic label means Non-GMO. People are missing that certified organic also means non-GMO. We do not need another label to clarified that when the USDA organic label is present on the package.

  2. Dr Phil D Mayers says:

    Sounds good to me, however still unable to buy your products?????????

  3. Lisa Murray says:

    Thank you for this clarification. I always wondered which was best since I did not think they were inclusive of each other. I thought certified organic refers to the growing process while Non GMO addressed the seed. I think the certified organic is better if I have to choose but also like the idea of having both to cover all the bases. Can’t a GMO seed be grown using organic growing practices?

    • Chelsea Vurciaga says:

      Hi Lisa! No, a GMO seed cannot be used in a Certified Organic product. The Certified Organic Label means that the product is completely Non-GMO…there is no need for an additional label.

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