The Basics of Organic Produce and GMOs

Content by: Jamie Rinaldi, RD, MS in Applied Physiology & Nutrition

Food shopping these days has become increasingly complicated. There is confusion surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and organic products. Consumers need some clarification on what these buzzwords actually mean!

The Basics of Organic Produce and GMOs

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Food shopping these days has become increasingly complicated given myths in the media and celebrities’ statements about what you should put in your body. There is confusion surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and organic products. Consumers need some clarification on what these buzzwords actually mean and what to purchase.

GMOs. A GMO is a plant, animal, or other organism that has been scientifically engineered to produce a superior product, for example to improve nutritional quality, increase product yield, or reduce negative impacts on the environment. There is a lot of fear about GMOs in food, due to lack of scientific facts and media propaganda. Opposers say they are unnatural and could potentially create allergens or alter a human’s genetic makeup. Decades of research have not led to such conclusions, and organizations dedicated to protecting our health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) have all deemed genetically modified foods safe for human consumption.

Organic foods have to meet criteria defined by the USDA in order to label themselves as such. Meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs must come from animals that have not been given growth hormones or antibiotics. Produce must be grown without conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and they cannot be irradiated or bioengineered. Organic foods wear a halo, considered more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts, and priced higher due to the higher cost of production for compliance with the USDA’s standards.

The science is not cut and dry, however, some studies have shown organically grown produce to be higher in antioxidants and organic animal foods to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional foods. And, then there are the infamous “dirty dozen” foods that the Environmental Working Group (EWP) define as the most contaminated with pesticide residue, therefore organic varieties are advisable.

As nutritional science is ever-evolving, there is a blurred line between subjective and objective information.

Let a Registered Dietitian or other health professional help you! As a general rule, foods don’t need to be non-GMO or organic to be nutritionally sound.

Quick Tips!
▪️ The most important focus while grocery shopping is selecting nutrient-dense, whole foods.
▪️ Most of our favorite celebrities do not have a nutrition education. Use research and facts to guide you around the store, not celebrity tips.