Non-GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism – it’s a scary-sounding term that can cost you big bucks in the grocery store.
Even everyday items like salt, water and cat litter now come with non-GMO options.
“I don’t have a cat, but if I did, I don’t think I would be spending any extra dollars on non-GMO kitty litter,” said Phil Sidles, farmer and Sangamon County Farm Bureau President.
A Genetically Modified Organism is a plant or product that’s DNA has been changed or modified from its original state. This can be done either in a lab or through cross-breeding of plants to bring out desirable traits, like making a plant more pest resistant or drought tolerant.
“The world’s population [is] growing and growing and the farming population is shrinking and shrinking,” Sidles said. “So we’re going to have to continue to produce more food on less ground and Genetically Modified Organisms is the way that we’re going to do that.”
It’s a practice that’s been in place for around 25 years.
“What a lot of people are doing when they buy non-GMO products, they’re just making sure that what they’re eating is pure and it hasn’t been adulterated and they can feel comfortable feeding their family food that they know is safe,” said Mary VanMetre, a natural food buyer for Food Fantasies.
The Sangamon County Farm Bureau said there are only 10 crops that have been genetically-modified and approved in the U.S.
But you can find plenty of products with the non-GMO label, including kitty litter.
Some farmers said they consider it “empty advertising” on things that have never been modified in the first place.
“A genetically-modified cat litter or genetically-modified salt or water, that’s just an absent-based marketing program,” Sidles said. “There’s no such thing as a GMO kitty litter or non-GMO kitty litter.”
The Non-GMO Project, the company that certifies non-GMO foods, said there are no long-term studies showing the safety of GMOs.
Groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization said genetically-modified foods are safe.
VanMeter said if you want to try non-GMOs, your money is best spent on packaged foods that include things like soy, corn and canola oil.
“I would maybe pay attention to things you’re actually ingesting first, but I mean, there’s always contact; absorbs ion and inhalation,” VanMeter said. “And then just environmental factors.”
Local farmers we spoke to said they’ll continue to genetically modify plants to achieve the best crop.
“I feed my family GMOs,” Sidles said. “I’ve got a five-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old that absolutely love sweet corn in the summertime, and it’s GMO. I eat it, my family eats it. I feel it’s safe.”
To get the non-GMO label, companies must go through a third-party verification process, regulated by the Non-GMO Project.