What Is the Difference Between GMO and Organic?

Organic foods are grown using traditional growing methods that promote environmental health and without chemical fertilizers, pesticides and industrial processing, and genetically modified organisms are plants or animals that have been modified using genetic engineering techniques to directly alter the organism's DNA. While GMOs can be grown using organic techniques, the genetic modification generally renders the plants ineligible for the organic label.

While organic and GMO are hotly debated terms in the food and health industries, the actual definition of either depends on the country that is enforcing the classification. Organic labels generally require some type of certification that the product in question does not use any synthetic additives of any kind, but the actual conditions of the production can vary widely among producers. As a rule, however, organic products cannot contain any genetically modified organisms of any sort.

Genetically modified organisms are a hotbed of controversy due to the unnatural reworking of plant and animal genes. Proponents of the technology point to crops like golden rice, which were altered to provide vital nutrients to starving populations. Opponents point to the potential for cross-species allergic reactions as well as the economic effects of being able to patent living organisms, which forces farmers to pay licensing fees to grow crops.