Skip to content
Back to All Articles

Non-GMO Foods: A Guide to Choosing Non-GMO Cooking Ingredients

07.15.22

The choice to pursue a non-GMO diet can lead to frustration. What should be a simple switch can make every trip to the grocery store a headache. GMO foods are common in every aisle. At Pacific Foods, we are here to help make your search for non-GMO products much less of a hassle.

What Does Non-GMO Mean?

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are products that have been genetically altered in a lab to produce a certain attribute. Any plant or organism that has had its DNA modified using biotechnology is considered a GMO.

Non-GMO simply means foods that have not gone through this process or been fed or treated with products that have gone through this process.

Non-GMO vs. Organic

There’s some overlap in the terms organic and non-GMO, but they are not the same thing. All organic food is non-GMO. Not all non-GMO food is organic.

One major difference between the two classes of foods involves the use of pesticides and herbicides. Non-GMO foods can be grown in an environment that uses synthetic chemicals to kill weeds and pests. Organic foods must limit the use of these chemicals. This is also true for antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, and other additives. Organic foods must avoid all of these treatments, whereas non-GMO foods may not.

Non-GMO only refers to how a plant or animal was bred, not how it was raised or treated afterward. Organic includes standards for both plant breeding and farming practices.

For many people who choose to avoid GMOs, looking for organic is an easy way to do so.

Non-GMO vs. “Natural”

The term “natural” on food labeling has an ambiguous history. The way many food producers use the term does not match what the average person thinks about when they hear the word, “natural.”

The USDA defines a product as “natural” if it contains “no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” The processing required to make it unnatural must “fundamentally alter the product.”

The use of genetically modified organisms will not prevent food manufacturers from considering a food natural and labeling it as such. So anyone looking to avoid GMOs can’t rely on natural or all-natural labels.

Non-GMO Foods by Category

To aid in your search for non-GMO foods, some third parties are working to spread a non-GMO certification. If you’re searching for non-GMO foods, you can look for third-party verification or the USDA organic seal.

Another option is to shop from companies with a demonstrated commitment to accurate labeling and careful sourcing. When it comes to foods, we can recommend the following choices when shopping.

Produce

In general, the main produce items that may be bred with genetically modified technology include:

  • Corn
  • Papaya
  • Summer squash (green and yellow)
  • Soybean and soybean products

When shopping for any of these products, look for the organic label to ensure that they are non-GMO. You can also look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label, which is a third-party label that is growing in popularity.

Meat & Poultry

This is one area in which non-GMO foods are harder to evaluate. The large majority of animals raised for meat are fed on GMO crops. The animals themselves, and the meat that comes from them, are not considered genetically modified. The DNA of the animal is not changed by what it eats.

Another alternative is to search out local farm sources and see if they have non-GMO-fed options.

Dairy & Eggs

Much like the meat and poultry category, finding non-GMO dairy and eggs is largely about how the animals are fed. Dairy products often indicate whether they come from grass-fed or 100% organically fed animals. It’s important to note that all USDA organic food, including dairy and eggs, is non-GMO.

Baking

If you’re baking at home, you likely are using granulated sugar which comes from sugar cane, which is non-GMO.

However, some common baking ingredients like corn starch, canola, and corn oils often contain GMOS. It’s important to look for organic baking powder, because of the corn starch component. Choosing an oil other than vegetable oil or canola oil is also beneficial. For example, most olive oil and sunflower oil is derived from non-GMO sources.

Tips for Finding and Choosing Non-GMO Foods

Labeling has improved rapidly in recent years. This improvement has been led by increased consumer demand for non-GMO options. It’s now possible to find a non-GMO alternative for almost anything you could want.

Buy Foods that are USDA Certified Organic

The USDA Certified Organic label is perhaps the most useful tool for anyone looking to go non-GMO. Anything bearing this label is guaranteed to be non-GMO.

Pay Attention to Labeling

It’s important to remember terms like “natural, and” “all-natural” have completely different meanings than “organic” or “non-GMO.” They don’t guarantee non-GMO status. They also don’t mean much about the quality or contents of the package.

When it comes to labeling, foods with the Certified Organic label are best. Foods with the Non-GMO label are also generally reliable, though that labeling is still handled by third parties, rather than certified by the FDA or USDA.

Be Mindful When Eating at Restaurants

Non-GMO food is often hard to find at restaurants. While there are non-GMO restaurants, they’re few and far between. Organic foods are typically more expensive and the pressure to cut costs with cheaper ingredients is ever-present.

Restaurants that make local, organic foods the basis of their marketing are your best bet.

Common GMO Crops

Once a GMO product is approved, it tends to take over the market. In the US, the following crops are very likely to contain GMOs:

  • Soy
  • Sugar beets
  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Cotton

If you’re careful to avoid sugar from sugar beets, high fructose corn syrup, conventional vegetable and canola oils, and margarine, you will go a long way to avoiding GMOs.

Pacific Foods Commitment to Consumer Choice

You have the right to know exactly what you put into your body. At Pacific Foods, we emphasize high-quality, organic ingredients. We prioritize non-GMO and organic ingredients in our products. If you’re looking for organic, non-GMO foods, shop our products today.