Is Non-GMO Better Than Organic?

Written by Max Goldberg on April 10, 2014. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Woman And Child With Trolley In Supermarket

In a recent online survey of a 1,000 health-conscious consumers conducted by Market LOHAS – Mambo Sprouts Marketing Research, it was found that 80% of shoppers seek out non-GMO products, with 56% saying non-GMO was key to brand buying versus 52% for organic.

Hence, a product that has the words “Non-GMO” on its packaging is going to carry more weight with consumers than “Organic”.

On many levels, this is incredibly worrisome, mostly because shoppers are making the absolute wrong and unhealthy decision at the supermarket.

Here are my overall thoughts.

1) In retrospect, we shouldn’t be too surprised with these results. If you combine all of the backlash against GMOs on social media and the 26 states that are trying to approve GMO-labeling bills, the awareness of GMOs has never been higher.

As such, people are increasingly making it a priority to avoid to avoid GMOs. And rightly so.

2) While the numbers shouldn’t come as a great surprise, they are alarming nonetheless.

For quite some time, I have believed that many people view non-GMO as an equal or adequate substitute for organic. Yet, the data from this poll is indicating something even worse – that people view non-GMO as superior to organic.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

GMOs, toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and artificial colors & flavors are all prohibited under USDA organic regulations.

Yet, all that a “Non-GMO” label means is no GMOs. Nothing else.

While there are a few independent organizations that certify and have standards regarding the “Non-GMO” label, such as the Non-GMO Project, the federal government has done nothing in regards to regulation and enforcement of the “Non-GMO” label.

Therefore, companies can slap the “Non-GMO” label on its packaging without any need for independent, third-party testing.

Even if a product has received certification from the Non-GMO Project, super-toxic chemicals and other risky substances and methods could still have been used in the production process.

3) We still have a long way to go in educating people about Organic vs. Non-GMO.

What makes this even more challenging, however, is that the organic industry is heavily focused on changing the public’s perception that “Natural” is better than “Organic”, as evidenced by the recent advertising campaign The Natural Effect.


One of the unintended consequences in our battle against GMOs and for GMO-labeling is that people have come to view the “Non-GMO” label as superior to the “Organic” label. This is a very serious mistake.

Consumers need to know that that if they can purchase a product that is both organic and non-GMO, that is best of both worlds. However, organic should always be the first thing that they look for.

Needless to say, the data from this poll was a real eye-opener, and hopefully it will start the conversation as to how we can go about reversing this unsettling trend.


There are two important posts for you to read in regards to this topic.

– With the lack of government regulation and enforcement of the “Non-GMO” label, Whole Foods Market has decided to implement its own policy in regards to this.

– Take a look at my 5 Essential Ways to Avoid GMOs.


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  1. Very informative article. This is a great example of unintended consequences with the non-GMO movement. Sigh.. Consumers are constantly barraged with information and this is something that should have been running parallel with the campaign. But, hindsight is 20/20. Moving forward, this is an issue that should be explained clearly on why it is still important to choose organic and not rely solely on the non-GMO label.

    Written by Tara on April 10, 2014 @ 6:29 pm
  2. YES! Max, this is great – I’m so glad you wrote and shared this. It’s sad that buying products has become so complicated and frustrating for consumers, which is why I’m grateful for educators like you!

    Written by Eco-Vegan Gal on April 10, 2014 @ 8:09 pm
  3. What this article fails to address is our entire global food supply has been contaminated with GMO (and it is not labelled except in foreign countries where GMO has either been banned, or mandatory labelling laws exist).

    Yes, it is correct that food labelled “NonGMO” can be full of petrochemical based biocides, HFCS, sugar, artificial additives, hydrogenated trans fats. The organization which created “GMO free verified” is credible and extremely strict standards for food manufacturers to bear that seal. There is no “GreenWashing” with the national organization which VERIFIES “No GMO”.

    General Mills recently produced Cheerio’s cereal packaging which alleges “No GMO” – it has not been verified by any independent, third party certification agency AND Cheerio’s is quite frankly, toxic crap.

    The article fails to address the USDA which grants NOP organic certification seal is completely run by ex-Monsanto executives and junk food manufacturer executives. On paper, federal organic certification standards look quite strict – in reality, “certified organic” has been watered down and adulterated so all sorts of toxic crap can be in it.

    I’m almost 60 years old and have been eating nutrient dense, whole foods, plant based diet since 1969 when I was 15 years old. I worked in the organic foods industry back in the Stone Age, starting in the 1970’s. I saw the industry go from true-blue “movement people” who started it in the 1960’s – to 1990 when NOP and USDA organic certification seal was created. Beginning in 1990 – 90% of national organic food manufacturers who were family owned and mom-pop run – were sold to transnational, hegemonic, corporate cartel junk food manufacturers. – link “Who Owns Organic”

    Coca-Cola bought Odwalla, Pepsi bought Naked Juice – both companies were caught guilty of adding hundreds of petrochemical based biocide ingredients in their product and NOT labelled. Trader Joe’s was sued in March, 2014 for fraudulenty mis-labelling organic/natural private label foods. Please Google “TraderJoesNaturalClassActionLawsuit”. Trader Joe’s was sold a very long time ago to a German junk food conglomerate, Aldi (spelling?). Aldi is the Wal-Mart of Europe…sort of like Tesco in the UK.
    Gardenberger is owned by horrible corporation and is full of GMO.

    Aveda Cosmetics was sold to Estee Lauder’s grandson and is full of petrochemical junk. Cascadian Farm was sold to General Mills. Glorious French Meadow organic, macrobiotic bakery was sold to some wretched corporation who changed all the ingredients and now it is junk.

    IBM, you BM, we all BM for IBM.

    I don’t trust USDA or NOP organic certification as far as I can toss it. Around 2008 CCOF was embroiled in a huge scandal. For decades they had been officially certifying Stockton Liquid Fertilizer Corporation in Northern California as producers of “organic” fertilizers and soil ammendments. Turns out that stuff was anhydrous ammonia based, petrochemical crud. Stockton Liquid Fertilizer corporation sold fertilizer to 90% of certified organic farmers in California and western states.

    Ex-owner of Stockton Liquid Fertilizer corporation dumped the company on a sucker who bought it from him – the ex-owner fled the country with his zillions in assets. You can read all about it by Googling Sacramento Bee newspaper who broke the story and the scandal received international publicity. A.G. Nakamura, California State Director of Agriculture was impotent and said he could not prosecute the ex-owner of Stockton Liquid Fertilizer corporation. I met A.G. Nakamura in person when he lectured with Michael Pollan in Sacramento around 2008. Nakamura told me “my hands are tied” and was very wimpy on this issue. Former State Attorney General, Jerry Brown (now California governor) refused to file charges and have the crook arrested, prosecuted and convicted (Oh and BTW, Jerry Brown is now pro-fracking!)

    I buy 80% of groceries from farmers market organic, permaculture ranchers and growers. I educated myself about soil science and am certified in permaculture. I am a veteran organic permaculture community garden and disciple of “One Straw Revolution” by Fukomura (spelling) and trained with Bill Mollison and Scottie Pittman to become certified in permaculture.

    It is the consumer’s responsibilty to educated themselves and know what is “clean” food. In the best of all possible worlds, our government would CARE about health, environment – but most politicans do the Faustian Deal and are forced to prostitute themselves to the 1% ruling class corporations to raise zillions of $$$ for PAC campaign funds. That is why we must educate ourselves and forge alliances with LOCAL sustainable growers and ranchers.

    There are some tried-and-true, ethical, family owned organic companies I do trust – the fact a USDA organic certification label on it means NOTHING to me. Eden Foods, Dr. Bronner’s body care, Lundberg Farm, Turtle Island, Maine Coast Sea Vegetable, G.T.’s raw Synergy brand Kombucha, Amy’s Kitchen organic frozen food – are just a few of highly ethical organic food manufacturers. I trust Dr. Oz very much since he refuses to commercially endorse any product and refuses to launch his own brand of supplements. I lost faith in Dr. Andrew Weill since his line of vitamin supplements was found to be FULL of GMO ingredients which he refused to label. Dr. Andrew Weill was long time member of Grocery Manufacturers Association – the folks who sabotaged EVERY GMO food labelling proposition on state ballots. Organic Consumers Association and shamed Dr. Andrew Weill into cancelling his membership with Grocery Manfuacturers Association.

    New Chapter is a reputable brand of orthomolecular medicine herbal medicine/supplements. I trust them.

    The article is well intentioned, but flawed in it’s methodology.

    What is important to me is BOTH no GMO and organic, sustainable, permaculturally grown food – local is important – but I will buy non local if I cannot find clean food that is locally made.

    Check out May 16th Jamie Oliver’s “National Food Revolution Day” and October 24th – Internation Food Day.

    Keep Hope Alive!

    Written by colleen whalen on April 10, 2014 @ 9:09 pm
  4. @Tara and @Whitney,

    Thanks so much! And, I agree. There is A LOT to digest for consumers and this piece of Non-GMO adds more complexity to the issue. Hopefully, we can reverse this trend of people choosing Non-GMO over organic.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 10, 2014 @ 9:17 pm
  5. Hi Colleen,

    While you bring up many valid points, the objective of my article was to make the distinction between Non-GMO vs. Organic. As I stated, if you can buy both organic and Non-GMO, that is the best of both worlds.

    There is no question that GMOs have contaminated the world’s food supply and there are serious problems at the USDA, but to criticize my “methodology” is non-sensical.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 10, 2014 @ 9:24 pm
  6. Thanks Colleen for the post, very informative. Dr Paul Yanick at is another high integrity source of food based nutrition.

    Written by Brian on April 11, 2014 @ 1:02 am
  7. We need to stay from the GMO foods just as much as being able to find and enjoy organic. The GMO foods have been found to cause disease and change our own DNA. And if we pass off the information in a way that it sounds like it is not all that bad to be eating GMO foods our lands will be more contaminated with these crops and our whole environment damaged. GMO farming is not sustainable farming so in either case, stay away from GMO and eat organic.

    Written by Diane on April 11, 2014 @ 7:10 am
  8. I wish the article was a little clearer or maybe just a better survey given… Not all consumers lack the education this article suggest. I know Organic is better, but if I was surveyed, I would have answered the way the results show most did. I don’t buy more organic simply because the organic products cost too much to feed my family of 5. If I can get a few things better (a product without GMO’s) I do, but my selections vary based on what’s on sale. Not my lack of knowledge.

    Written by Brandi Bence on April 11, 2014 @ 12:19 pm
  9. I thought that organic certification prohibits GMOs. I didn’t see that mentioned in the article…again though a clear example of consumer confusion on these labels. If organic is not available or too costly as some find it to be then buying non-gmo is definitely a good way to go…however, that cost factor needs to be closely looked at…organic can be more satisfying and nutritionally more fulfilling to the body thereby decreasing the quantity needed. VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS! Let the corporations know what we will spend our money on and they will need to provide what we want so they can profit!!!

    Written by Diane on April 11, 2014 @ 3:37 pm
  10. Hi Diane,

    It is mentioned in there. See above:

    Under USDA organic regulations, GMOs, super-toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, artificial colors and flavors, and other substances are all prohibited.

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on April 11, 2014 @ 4:46 pm
  11. Oooops….that’s what can happen when you read something while watching a 4 month old!!! Thanks, Max!!! Your information is great to get and to share! So glad you are blogging!

    Written by Diane on April 11, 2014 @ 6:08 pm
  12. The other day at Whole Foods, I overheard a customer asked the produce associate whether the fresh corn was GMO or not. His response was that “if it wasn’t labeled organic, it should be assumed to be GMO”. If the workers at Whole Foods don’t know the difference between conventional and organically grown produce and GMO produce, then how can consumers be expected to know?

    Written by william on April 13, 2014 @ 11:49 pm
  13. Hey Max,

    Hope you well,

    Thanks for the post. We must have to take some steps against those people who don’t know that “Non-GMO” items are not superior to the “Organic”. Moreover, I’ll try to start a campaign regarding this issue near my city as well.

    Written by Anna Jane on April 18, 2014 @ 8:48 am
  14. So glad for Vernont! I use the list good products Before I G To the Farmers Market and the Store. Wish ALL States Would DO It TOO

    Written by Valerie Link on April 29, 2014 @ 12:07 am
  15. […] Is Non-GMO Better Than Organic? – livingmaxwell – Is Non-GMO better than Organic? This answer is NO. … – With the lack of government regulation and enforcement of the “Non-GMO” label, Whole Foods Market has decided to implement its own policy in regards to this. – Take a look at my … […]

    Pingback by Organic Food Better Than Gmo « Healthfood Tips on September 21, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
  16. Major mistake the author failed to mention in the article: organic foods are, by law, GMO free. That means that if you buy organic, you are already buying GMO free. If you buy only GMO-free, you’re still buying pesticides and other great things that will eventually lead to cancer, Alzheimers, etc. Have you noticed that cancer rates have skyrocketed since the creation of GMO’s? Hmmm, thanks Monsanto!

    Written by Tayler on October 20, 2014 @ 7:49 pm
  17. Hi Tayler,

    In the post, I say that “Under USDA organic regulations, GMOs, super-toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, artificial colors and flavors, and other substances are all prohibited.”

    Live well,

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 23, 2014 @ 3:23 pm
  18. My fear about depending on organics is most brands have sold to corporations who
    are meddling with the federal & state guidelines.
    I consider that a major travesty.

    I wonder too why they all sold to the corp controllers.
    Ominous. Casscadis Farms. Edan. All of the standards are gone.
    That’s why locally grown is so important. Read labels of non GMO other
    Nasty stuff in them.

    TY Peace. Jane

    Written by jane burnes on November 21, 2014 @ 11:23 am
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