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    You Ask, I Answer: Organic vs. Genetically Modified

    soy millkI was at the store buying soy milk the other day.  I saw several brands that were organic, but [their ingredient lists] did not specify [the use of] non-genetically modified soybeans.

    Is that because organic soybeans are never genetically modified?

    In other words, does “organic” automatically mean NOT genetically modified?

    — Rebecca Baerth
    Chicago, IL

    Wonderful question!  Not surprisingly, the answer is a little convoluted.

    From a technical standpoint, the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 states that the term “organic” can not be used in reference to foods that are genetically modified.

    However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

    1. When the Organic Foods Production Act was drafted, genetically modified crops were nowhere near as prevalent as they are now.  It is estimated that 91 percent of soybeans grown in the United States in 2007 were genetically modified.  In 1990, there were absolutely NO genetically modified soybeans grown in the United States.
    2. Testing for genetic modification — and labeling products as “non-GMO” — is completely voluntary

    Since testing is voluntary, there is a possibility that organic products — especially those using soybeans — are contaminated with non-GMO crops.

    Therefore, if avoiding genetically modified foods is important to you, the absolute best way to ensure that is by purchasing products that are labeled non-GMO.

    Hopefully, the Food & Drug Administration will take a cue from other countries and impose mandatory testing and labeling in regards to genetic modification.


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