One of the most common questions we get at the Non-GMO Project is why we
verify products that are seemingly not at risk or at low-risk of being produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While it may seem strange to have Non-GMO Project Verified salt or fruit, there are several important reasons that we
verify all types of products—including those for which genetically modified
versions have not yet been commercialized.

Hidden high-risk ingredients

First, some ingredients that seem low-risk may contain less-visible high-risk
ingredients. Take, for example, dried fruit. Products like raisins and prunes are sometimes coated with a small quantity of an oil to keep them moist. The oils used on dried fruit are often at high-risk of being produced from genetically modified soybeans or canola. According to the Non-GMO Project Standard, all ingredients must be evaluated prior to use in a verified product.

Consumer knowledge about GMO ingredients

Verifying only high-risk products puts a burden on consumers to know what crops are currently being genetically engineered and which ingredients are derived from these GMOs. Most consumers do not walk around with encyclopedic knowledge of what is at high-risk for being a GMO. Every year we see new GMOs enter the
marketplace and it is very complicated to discern which ingredients might be
derived from a genetically engineered crop. The Non-GMO Project wants to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to know the products they are buying are 
truly non-GMO.

Providing a level playing field for all non-GMO products

Only labeling products that are either at high-risk of being GMO or at high-risk of being contaminated with GMOs would potentially confuse consumers and create an unfair competitive advantage. Picture a shopper in the grocery store aisle
looking at two jars of raspberry jam, one sweetened with beet sugar (95 percent of U.S. sugar beets are genetically modified) and one sweetened with cane sugar (GMO versions are in development, but not on the market yet). If we only allowed high-risk products to carry the trusted Butterfly mark, only the jar sweetened with beet sugar could be verified. Then, the average shopper would likely put the cane sugar jam without the verified mark back on the shelf, assuming it must be at risk for
being made with GMOs.

Building and maintaining a non-GMO food supply

Our mission is to preserve and build a non-GMO food supply. By verifying low-risk products, the Non-GMO Project’s work builds consumer interest and industry
investment in non-GMO food production. Biotech developers are constantly
working to patent and commercialize new organisms (apples, bacteria, cows, salmon, wheat, etc.). The persistent lack of regulation and oversight for GMOs—
including unapproved variety trials conducted in open-air fields at undisclosed
locations—means there are ongoing and serious risks of contamination from
experimental varieties. Contamination has happened on 
numerous occasions, such as the 2013 discovery of unapproved genetically engineered glyphosate-resistant wheat. The Non-GMO Project is poised to proactively respond and coordinate
surveillance testing strategies to help assess the extent of the contamination. By
including low-risk products in the scope of our program and databases, we are poised to respond to contamination, identify risk products and conduct testing to get any problems under control quickly.

In addition, thanks to consumer demand, the Non-GMO Project is changing the way food companies look at their business in regards to sourcing ingredients and the supply chain. Companies are now actively seeking the Non-GMO Project
Verified mark to demonstrate their non-GMO commitment and setting the bar for the future of food production. Every day consumers learn about our mission through the more than 40,000 products that carry the Butterfly, and engage through our websites and social media to find out more. Here are three examples of ingredients we receive questions about:


While not an organism, most table salt or sea salt on the market today has
minor amounts of other ingredients—such as the anti‑caking agent dextrose—which are very likely to be derived from genetically modified corn. However, these agents are considered to be “processing aids” and thus do not have to be included in the ingredients label. Our rigorous verification process tracks down GMO risks that might not be obvious to the consumer. Some manufacturers choose to demonstrate to consumers that they can trust all ingredients are not the result of genetic modification. Packages of salt carrying the Non-GMO Project Verified seal give shoppers a non-GMO salt option, and also help
educate shoppers about the multitude of micro inputs that exist in common products that seemingly have no connection to GMOs.

Orange Juice

Genetically modified oranges have been developed in test plots, but they are not yet commercially available to growers. Non-GMO Project Verified oranges and other verified low-risk ingredients help shed light on the issues of new novel
organisms that are constantly being created in labs. Also, similar to table salt, minor amounts of other ingredients in orange juice could have originated as GMOs—citric acid, vitamin D and many other supplements begin as a substrate or derivative of genetically modified corn. Our seal provides assurance that the entire product was evaluated, and our rigorous Standard puts pressure on
companies to change their ingredients to non-GMO sources.

Sunflower Oil

Vegetable oil can sometimes contain combinations of different oil varieties even when the product claims to be a single ingredient food. Reports have found cases of fraud in the cooking oil industry. As the manufacturing of oil
removes the GMO marker, testing all the original ingredients—in this case, the seed—is critical to any GMO avoidance claim. In addition, transitioning to
ingredients at low-risk of being genetically modified—like from soy to
sunflower oil—is one way that companies can effectively reduce the risk of GMO contamination. As a result, demand for Non-GMO Project Verified sunflower products—such as oil and lecithin—has been steadily increasing over the past couple of years as consumers and food manufacturers seek non-GMO
alternatives to high-risk oils.

The verification of low-risk and non-risk ingredients provides shoppers an
informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified organisms. Preserving and building the non-GMO supply chain is a critical step of
transitioning toward a safe, healthy food supply for future generations.


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Thank you for providing reassurance in the grocery store which is already confusing enough!!!


Thank you for your dilegence in helping us identify and choose no gmo foods! I always look for the butterfly when I shop!

Jan Goshorn

Thank you so much for all you do. With the butterfly, I can be sure of what I’m buying and greatly rely on it.


THANKYOU. This article is very informative. Just one more question. Once a product receives your seal, is it periodically tested again, to keep the manufacturer honest? Also, where do you obtain the samples from? I hope from random shopping in different stores.

Eric Piatek

In this post-truth era it seems that masses of people on the planet, not just United States citizens, have completely lost the ability to discern between right and wrong in a fundamental sense regarding issues related to GMO technology; e.g.: wrongful appropriation by the United States’ government of tax payers’ hard-earned money to provide the venture capital for free to corporations to help finance GMO for the masses to consume and unknowingly be harmed by their deleterious effects; in other words, one pays to be harmed; wrongful, flagrant, wanton destruction wielded upon the ecosystems on the planet; wrongful complicity on behalf of all companies supplying and distributing deleterious GMO’s in the environment while deceiving consumers to their detriment; ad infinitum.

Josie Rayner

My daughter has a soy allergy. We have discovered that most foods labeled as non-gmo are safe for her to eat. Thank you for all you do!!!

Wendy Evans

Thank you for what you are doing! I always look for the butterfly, no butterfly, don’t buy.


Thank you for your very informative article. I wish Australia would introduce the same rigorous testing and labelling of their products. Esther

Steve Magruder

Re: sunflower oil, I’ve been seeing reports that companies are switching to using it to create the picture of a non-GMO product (or healthier product in general). I’ve also seen a report that glyphosate is sometimes used in the harvesting process for sunflower seeds for pre-harvest desiccation. Does the Non-GMO Project take that into account when evaluating sunflower oils or products containing it?


I love that we have this, but regularly see bread labeled as non-GMO, but is not organic, which we know can mean glyphosate contamination due to its use as a desiccant. I think for bread, grains, and anything else at risk for glyphosate contamination, this label provides a false sense of security if glyphosate exposure is high on your list of reasons for avoiding GMOs.


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