What is GMO?

A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified using recombinant DNA methods (also called gene splicing), gene modification or transgenic technology. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Genetic modification affects many of the products we consume on a daily basis. As the number of GMOs available for commercial use grows every year, the Non-GMO Project works diligently to provide the most accurate, up-to-date standards for non-GMO verification.

In order for a product to be Non-GMO Project Verified, its inputs must be evaluated for compliance with our standard, which categorizes inputs into three risk levels:

Risk Level Definition Examples
High Risk The input is derived from, contains derivatives of, or is produced through a process involving organisms that are known to be genetically modified and commercially available. Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar beet, Yellow summer squash / zucchini, Animal products, Microbes and enzymes
Low Risk The input is not derived from, does not contain derivatives of, or is not produced through a process involving organisms that are presently known to be genetically modified and commercially available. Lentils, Spinach, Tomatoes, Sesame seeds, Avocados
Non Risk  The input is not derived from biological organisms and not, therefore, susceptible to genetic modification.


Though there are only several GM crops that are widely available, they are commodity crops that often get further processed into a variety of ingredients. These high-risk ingredients are typically present in packaged products as:

Amino acids, alcohol, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), high-fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, molasses, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), xanthan gum, vitamins, vinegar, yeast products

 The Non-GMO Project Standard considers animal-derived products such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey to be high risk due to the prevalence of GMOs in animal feed. Cloned animals and their progeny are considered to be GMOs under the standard, as are the products of synthetic biology.

Learn more