Navigating the Grocery Store Aisle

believed that the “natural” label means more than it does. Nearly half incorrectly believe that “natural” claims on labels have been independently verified.

“N a tural” labels don’t mean anything and are not worth the extra cost. If you care about pesticides, buy organic (Chambers et al., 2019; Houck, 2019). If you care about GMOs, buy non-GMO. If you care about local, buy foods that you have independently verified are produced locally. “ Natural ” does not address any of these. Until the FDA and USDA provide better definitions of and policy regulations to verify these terms, consider the “natural” claim on a food label to be a marketing strategy. “Non - GMO” Label Key Message There are only 13 actual “GMO” foods, as of this publication, and they are no less safe than conventionally produced food. “Non - GMO” Label Key Facts Genetically modified organisms are bioengineered products in which the genetics were changed on purpose using DNA technology. We have always used traditional selective breeding methods to alter DNA, but bioengineering is a more precise process to create GMOs. Eighty-eight percent of all scientists surveyed agree that GMO foods are no less safe than conventionally produced food, and 99% of scientists that study GMOs think they are safe (Plumer, 2015). Only 13 crops have GMO versions, as of the publication of this guide, and the most current list (using the term bioengineered) is always available on the Agricultural Marketing Services website. A “non - GMO” label on a ny other product is unnecessary and misleading because no GMO version exists. The current approved GMO varieties (Agricultural Marketing Service, 2020) are the following:


apple (Arctic varieties)




eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties)

• papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties)

pineapple (pink flesh varieties)


salmon (AquaAdvantage)


squash (summer)



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