High-Risk Crops & Inputs

Testable High-Risk

One of the elements that sets the Non-GMO Project Standard apart from other non-GMO claims is the requirement to test major high-risk inputs and ingredients to Verified products when testing is available to quantify GMO contamination.

The Non-GMO Project uses a risk matrix to determine the Standard’s High-Risk list. As Monitored GMO crops/inputs become more available, they are entered into the matrix; when their total risk score reaches a predetermined threshold, they are recommended for addition to the High-Risk list. 

An input or ingredient can be classified as high-risk if it is derived from, contains derivatives of, or is produced through a process involving organisms that are known to be genetically modified, with the risk matrix focusing on key criteria, including: the number of acres planted; commercial availability; the presence in the supply chain; usage; and its potential use in human food and/or as animal feed. The following crops, inputs, and ingredients are considered “testable” high-risk:

Classification Ingredient
Crops Alfalfa, Canola, Corn (except popcorn), Cotton, Papaya, Soy, Sugar beet, Zucchini/Yellow summer squash
Animal Derivatives Meat, Eggs, Milk, Products of Apiculture (e.g., Honey), Products of Aquaculture (e.g., Fish), Gelatin, Hides and Skin

To meet the requirements of the Non-GMO Project Standard, an input or ingredient derived from a testable major high-risk crop will need test results from the raw source material to prove that it is non-GMO. For example, in order to prove that soy lecithin meets the standard, the raw soy must be tested before it is processed into lecithin.

Animal derivatives such as meat, eggs, milk, and honey are considered high-risk inputs due to the prevalence of GMOs in animal feed. As such, animal derivatives are evaluated by reviewing the animals’ feed, and more specifically, by testing the testable major high-risk inputs to that feed. Cloned animals and their progeny are considered GMOs under the Standard, and are prohibited for use in Verified products.

Non-Testable High-Risk

Not all GMOs on the market are detectable by current tests. In recognition of the potential for non-testable GMOs to contaminate the non-GMO supply chain, the Non-GMO Project Standard requires declarations for major and minor high-risk crops, inputs, and ingredients attesting that they have not been genetically modified.

Classification Ingredient
Crops Canola, Potato, Soy
Microbes and Microbial Products Enzymes (e.g., chymosin), Cultures and starters including yeast, Algae from aquaculture

Canola and soy are identified as both “testable” and “non-testable” high-risk as different techniques may be used to genetically modify these inputs, only some of which are detectable by current test methods.

Microbes and microbial products are fed growth medium that contains testable high-risk inputs. The Non-GMO Project Standard requires that the microbes themselves are not GMO, and it also requires that testable major high-risk inputs to the growth medium are tested when the microbe or microbial product is a major input or ingredient in a Verified product. Much like Non-GMO Project Verified milk must come from cows fed non-GMO feed, microbes and microbial products in a Verified product must be fed a non-GMO growth medium.

Learn more