Center for Science in the Public Interest: Biotech Blog—Shopping for Honesty: Sorting Out Non-GMO Claims

By Greg Jaffe –

This past weekend while grocery shopping at my neighborhood Giant supermarket, I noticed a surprising number of products claiming to be “non-GMO.”  For many consumers, those claims probably raise several questions.  Are foods that contain ingredients from GMOs (genetically modified organisms) safe?[i]  Is the “non-GMO” label claim accurate?  Are those label claims just a marketing ploy to get consumers to purchase the product at a higher price?

Personally, I don’t go out of my way to purchase products with a non-GMO label because there is an international scientific consensus that ingredients from existing genetically engineered (GE) crops are safe to eat and nutritionally identical to their conventional counterparts.  A recent National Academy of Sciences report thoroughly reviewed all available evidence on GMO crop safety and concluded that “no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health and safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts.”[ii]  That same conclusion has been reached by other respected scientific and regulatory bodies, including the European Commission, the World Health Organization, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

I understand that some consumers may wish to purchase a non-GMO food for reasons other than safety.  Some consumers may not want to support developers of GM crops.  Other consumers may be concerned about the environmental impacts of engineered crops, such as the development or herbicide-resistant weeds or insecticide-resistant pests.  How should those consumers decide when to purchase a product that has been designated as non-GMO?

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