Monday, January 10, 2011

What's the difference between non-GMO and organic?

IP-Certified Organics are produced without GMOs (genetically modified organisms) but are not tested for potential GMO contamination by pollen drift, etc. The IP stands for 'identity preserved"; in other words, there is an audit trail documenting the production and process inputs and a third party certifier overseeing and signing off on the paperwork. All crops and foods produced under this designation meet U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations under its National Organic Program (USDA-NOP) that include allowable and non-allowable agricultural and food production inputs. Such inputs include irradiation (not allowed), agricultural chemicals (only natural source ones allowed), and GMOs (not allowed). Theer are also lists of allowed/not allowed food addititives and rules for making label claims for organics.

IP-non-GMO certification is similar, but this certification is only for processes that exclude introducing GMO substances or seeds. The difference is that there are other restrictions as to what is allowed to be used with organics that don't apply to non-GMO conventional foods. For example, agricultural chemicals, synthetic food additives, etc are allowed with non-GMO but not for certified organics.

Testing is another issue. Testing of such products is not widely done, and studies have shown that there is less GMO contamination of certified organics than conventional crops when neither is supposed to contain GMOs. Exports to Europe may require GMO testing to be done and results must be under a threshold (typically 0.5% maximum). But most certified organic and non-GMO certified ingredients are not tested for residual GMOs that could have gotten in by seed contamination, pollen drift, handling errors, etc. and this is usually not considered to be a significant problem that requires testing.

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