Organic vs. Non-GMO: A Simple Explanation & Key Differences

Organic vs. Non-GMO: A Simple Explanation & Key Differences

Article Summary: USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified are two terms you're likely very familiar with at this point. You also may have noticed these terms in our product descriptions and on our Ingredients page. You might be wondering, what's the significance? In this case, labels do matter. So today, we will explore basic definitions, key differences, and point you to additional resources if you'd like to go deeper into this topic.


Our intention with today's post is to give you a quick glimpse into organic and non-GMO labeling. We will define both terms, provide a simple infographic that highlights key differences, and also serve up a few resources that you can use to dig deeper into this topic. 

Without further adieu, let's get started...



The USDA Certified Organic label is the gold standard of the organic market in the United States today. USDA organic federal regulations do not allow for the use of GMOs.

When referring to the USDA Organic federally regulated label, organic is defined as "...a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced according to the USDA organic standards. These methods integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used." (Source:

The USDA Organic certification requires farmers and businesses to meet strict standards for all growing and production of their products and ensures 95 percent or more of the final product is organic.

  • No GMOs allowed.
  • The use of pesticides and herbicides including glyphosate is prohibited. Glyphosate has been associated with serious health concerns (including cancer) and legal cases over the past few years.
  • The use of hexane is prohibited. Hexane, a known neurotoxin, is an ingredient used to process many seed oils.
  • No sewage sludge – need we say more! By prohibiting this sludge, it protects the consumer from potential toxins and heavy metals.
  • Antibiotics are also not allowed. With the issue of antibiotic resistance in recent years, this is becoming increasingly important to avoid.
  • Ractopamine, a feed additive, is a drug used in the United States meat industry to promote growth in animals. According to the Organic Consumer Association, ractopamine is banned in 160 countries. Ractopamine is not allowed.

Question: How do I know if a product or food item that I purchase is certified USDA Organic? Just look for this symbol on the label of the food/product. It should be easily found on the packaging. Farmers and businesses pay for the USDA Organic certification so if it is certified organic, the label will certainly be visible. :)


USDA Organic Label


What about labels that say "Organic" but do not have the USDA Organic seal?

It's important to note that the USDA Organic label comes with a hefty price. There are many farmers and ranchers across the United States that are using organic, regenerative farming methods but are opting to not pursue this label due to bureaucratic red tape and expense. We source our grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture-raised beef tallow from farmers practicing regenerative and organic farming on local Midwest farms. 



    The Non-GMO Project Verified certification is granted to farmers and/or businesses that complete the 3-6 month review (or less depending on product) and evaluation process with the Non-GMO Project organization. Once the evaluated item is thoroughly tested and certified as Non-GMO, the farmer/business must complete an annual review to maintain the certification.

    Non-GMO Project Verified Logo

    The Non-GMO Project Verified label (with the little butterfly) ensures the absence of genetically modified organisms or GMOs in a product. All other Non-GMO labels are not regulated and therefore not a guarantee that the product is truly Non-GMO.

    Unfortunately, this label does not protect the consumer from other substances. It is mainly there to ensure the absence of GMOs. This list of substances includes herbicides (i.e. glyphosate), pesticides, hexane, sewage sludge, antibiotics, and ractopamine.

    We'd like to point out that although the Non-GMO Project Verified label allows for these substances, it does not necessarily mean they are present. It is simply not a requirement to obtain the Non-GMO Project Verified label.



    Bottom line is this – choose organic whenever possible. Or better yet, find a local farm or farmer's market to support! We have a farmer's market every week, May through October, in a nearby community. I have found a farmer who is using organic farming practices, which includes not using chemicals or pesticides. In speaking with him, he has opted out of pursuing the costly USDA Certified Organic label for economic reasons. 

    To help you remember the key differences between organic and non-GMO, below is a simple infographic you can keep on-hand when you are out shopping or making a purchasing decision. 

    Organic Vs. Non-GMO Infographic



    Interested in learning more about the ingredients we use in our face & body balms? Take a peek at our Ingredients page where we give a brief overview of each ingredient along with products that contain the ingredient.

    We are 100% transparent and share all of the ingredients that we use in our balms. No hidden ingredients using terms like "fragrance" or "proprietary ingredient". What you see is what you get. :)



    If you would like to take a deeper dive into this topic, below are a handful of resources to get you started:

    We always encourage you to dig in and do your own research. You are your best advocate. What you need and what suits you best is perfectly unique for you  - and this will shift and evolve as you walk your health and wellness path.

    Have comments or questions about Good & Simple balms or this article in general?

    Leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you!


    Anne & Jen
    Owners, Good & Simple


    [*Disclaimer: The statements made on this website have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.]


    Good & Simple is a handcrafted line of face and body balms formulated with premium, wholesome ingredients. Our balms are nutrient-dense, nourishing for your skin, and serve as a multi-purpose solution to your skin's unique needs. Yes, it can be easy.

    Let go of complicated skin care and experience the ease of a simple, clean, nourishing skin care routine that you and your family will love. Clear your counters because in this instance, less is definitely more. 

    To experience Good & Simple balms, shop our store. Even better, sign up for our monthly-ish newsletter and get 15% off your first purchase.

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