Buzz Word or Better? GMO vs. Non-GMO

Posted on May 03, 2021 by Jack McCann
Tags: BuzzWords newsletter

Buzz Word or Better?

In this series, we try to look at common grocery store marketing efforts and break down which provide value and which you may be better off to skip.

If you missed the introduction article, I'd recommend reading that first (its all about grocery eggs).

Is GMO safe?

For the purposes of this article, I am mostly going sidestep the overall safety questions around GMO.

However, I will say this: Genetic modification itself is not inherently unsafe. Being opposed to all possible food science advances for the sake of being opposed to BigAg is painting with too broad of a brush.

I think it is clear that some genetic modifications have safety and environmental concerns to at least consider. But that doesn't mean all modifications are that way. Differentiating between these two camps is something we could discuss at a later date.

To be crystal clear -

  • None of our products have GM or conventional ingredients.
  • None of our animals are fed conventional feed (GM or otherwise)

The only exceptions are when a transition or certified organic ingredient isn't available. For example, one can't buy "Organic" salt.

So what IS this article about?

My goal with this series is to talk about what buzz words are worth the extra cost and which are not.

I think the data is clear: "non-GMO" without also having 'organic' is at best a waste of money and at worst might even ben less healthy.

That's right, the hippie organic farmer is saying that if you aren't buying organic, you probably are better off buying regular conventional GMO fed foods. At a minimum, I wouldn't pay extra for a non-GM version.


All organic products are non-GM.

If you buy an organic product or buy meat fed organic feed, you know it is always non-GM.

Anything you see in the grocery store that says 'non-GMO' without saying organic is raised identically to the GM crops, but without the reduction in insecticides that go along with the GM.

It is true the GM crops will use more roundup. However non-GM conventional crops also use roundup. This even includes a small amount of the wheat crop sprayed about two weeks before harvest. Only organic will give you zero roundup or other more toxic synthetic herbicides.

However, if you get a conventional Non-GM, then you also need to assume an insecticide is sprayed. This is because one of the few genetic modifications that actually increases yield is designed to reduce insect damage to the crop and dramatically reduce insecticide sprays.

Most conventional farmers going to use some sort of synthetic incedicide. The ironic thing is that the most common one built into the GM crops seems much safer than the ones sprayed on top of the non-GM crops.

It is a pretty big difference, around 10 times the amount of insecticide sprayed on non-GM crops; here is an MPR article about local farmers discussing how much they will be increasing their pesticide sprays to meet the demand for Non-GMO sugars.

Yes, that's right, there is at least a valid argument to be had that conventional Non-GM crops are going to have a notably higher toxic load than a GM crop.

Cost of conventional non-GM

From a consumer perspective, the 'non-GM', but otherwise conventional products are priced almost as much as organic. Consumers think non-GM is the gold standard, so they pay extra for it. Eggs are a great example, you can by the organic version for just $1 more (which is a way better value).

From a farming or food manufacture perspective, a non-GM conventional crops for animal feed or your products will cost just a fraction more than a GM conventional. Whereas, organic is often more than double the price.

So somewhere the consumer is getting ripped off. The actual "non-GM" product is basically the same value as GM conventional, but the consumer is paying almost the same price as organic.

That's why you see grocery stores and brands pushing the 'Non-GMO' aspect so much - selling a conventional product for almost the same price as organic is a huge boost to their profits.

You're better off skipping that upgrade or splurging for the full organic version.

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