GMO – Help!


OK, folks. I need to lean on your shoulders for something that is really bugging me right now. It is GMO, or more accurately, non-GMO.

I don’t want to discuss whether GMO is right or wrong, what I want to discuss are the terms to describe whether a product is GMO free.

Here is the deal: a customer called me the other day and asked if one of our products (a soy product) is non-GMO or GMO-Free. I couldn’t remember with 100% confidence and offered to look it up. She explained she needed to know if it was one or the other, and I was puzzled. I explained these terms would describe the same thing. She said she has been informed this is not the case. My first reaction was to laugh. Why do marketers have to pretend things are, or are not, something just to market them? In a few days I will share with you my thoughts on marketing people muddying the waters for the consumer.

So, I have done more research and I am still not fully satisfied with the answers I have been given. All vendors I have talked with say there is NO difference between non-GMO and GMO-Free. They say these terms are interchangeable. Are they? What is your experience with either term?

I need all readers in Sage-land to educate me on this item. Send your thoughts through the blog or send them to us privately via email. You are welcome to add more questions to this list and are not obligated to provide answers.

One more thought, there is a product out there that is pretty common but is most often wild-crafted. It is harvested where it grows in abundance and sometimes it is planted in big garden plots for harvesting a commercial crop. This same caller asked if this item is also non-GMO. I admit I am rather confused as to why one would market a mostly wild-crafted product as non-GMO. I expect all products that are mostly non-mass grown to be non-GMO.

Go ahead, I’ve opened this can of worms and I may regret it later but I am hoping that we can have an educated discussion here.

P.S. The soy product in question is non-GMO, as I suspected it would be. The soy is non-GMO and the product as a whole does not contain any genetically modified materials. Is this the part where the two terms come about? Would the GMO-free mean nothing in a blend is a GMO? My conversation lead me to believe that non-GMO is the favored term and GMO-Free indicated that further processing was done to remove the GMO indicators. The whole time I just kept thinking “WHAT?!” All in the name of making a buck. Confusion in the marketplace! GEEZ!

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5 thoughts on “GMO – Help!”

  1. Tina,
    You realize you opened up a whole can of worms. LOL I think the GMO/non-GMO fight is like the Organic/non organic fight. Who is policing these things. Anyone can say- yes my product is gmo free or no it is not. There isn’t really a credible agency that can vouch for it. It’s all about money- yes even in the organic world- people can lie and say it is GMO free when it isn’t.
    Our government can’t hold anything together, let alone police for gmo products to make sure what you are paying a premium for something that is what it claims to be.
    I don’t trust any of it- or even the sustainable palm- is it really sustainable? I guess I’m too cynical for this fight. It’s an interesting post though! I’ll be following.:)

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  2. What might make sense is non-gmo may refer to an individual ingredient, say soy, which is often a GMO when mass produced. GMO free probably refers to the whole product which contains no GMO ingredients. (At least, that’s my best guess). I try to avoid GMOs whenever possible, as I’ve developed an allergy to GMO corn and soy over the last few years. Things that are USDA Certified Organic (to my understanding and research) contain no GMOs. It’s a new world to navigate, and the terms seem like they would mostly be interchangable…

    Please note that my answer is just my trying to reason through what the difference might be!

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  3. GMO free and Non-GMO are the exact same thing to the extent of their meaning but not their reliability. Something labelled with either is suppose to convey the message that no ingredient in the product is genetically modified. It would be counter productive to list individual ingredients in a product as non-GMO since we want to avoid all genetically modified ingredients not just some. I am assuming what the person was referring to is the non-GMO project ( which is really the only reliable label that guarantees a product is not genetically modified. Just writing no-gmo’s on a label is like writing “all-natural.” We know how that goes. Those of us concerned about GMOs look for the non-gmo label by the non-gmo project. I could be wrong about what the person was asking but that’s what I’d be looking for if asking about gmos.

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  4. This is what the NonGMO project has to say about GMO free:
    Unfortunately, “GMO free” and similar claims are not legally or scientifically defensible due to limitations of testing methodology. In addition, the risk of contamination to seeds, crops, ingredients and products is too high to reliably claim that a product is “GMO free

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  5. Tina,

    As far as I know, you cannot process an item to take the GMO out of it. It is either a non-GMO/GMO-free product or is not and the two terms are interchangeable. Maybe something that is wild-crafted could come from GMO seeds, though you would think not, maybe it is best to confirm. The non-GMO verified program is a 3rd party verification, not the government to mess it up. Personally, I would buy the non GMO product if it was available and reasonably priced and I am always happy to know and have a choice. Whatever we buy, we should have a choice and know what is in the product, just as we should know the country of origin and such. I like to make an informed decision and I am sure there are others.

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