The USDA Organic seal and the Non-GMO Project seal are prevalent on many food labels, but what exactly do they mean and what is the difference? We’ve outlined the differences below, so that you’ll have more clarity the next time you go grocery shopping.

Let’s start with GMOs. The Non-GMO Project states that “A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” Simply put, the Non-GMO Project verified seal only confirms that a product contains no genetically modified ingredients. It is still unclear if the modification itself is a concern. However, one of the biggest reasons GMOs were created was to engineer crops to be herbicide- and pesticide-tolerant. The Non-GMO Project states that more than 80% of all genetically modified crops grown worldwide have been engineered for herbicide tolerance. This means that when you buy something with GMOs in the ingredients, you are most likely consuming herbicides as well. The most widely used herbicide is glyphosate, which the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer agency claims is “probably carcinogenic”. There are currently only ten crops sold on the market that are GMOs: sugar beets (any sugar that is not labeled cane sugar comes from sugar beets), corn, soy, and canola, cotton, golden rice, potatoes, tomatoes squash, and papaya. When you are buying products containing these ten ingredients, finding the ones labeled Non-GMO is recommended. Unfortunately, because food labeled Non-GMO only means the food isn’t genetically modified, it could still have herbicides and pesticides on it.

It’s also important to look out for products labeled Non-GMO that aren’t even GMO products, to begin with. They are most likely using the label as a marketing ploy. One big example of this is oats, which often have the Non- GMO Project seal on their labels but they aren’t a GMO product. Yet, they contain some of the highest levels of glyphosate because the spraying of glyphosate as a pre-harvest drying agent is a common practice. So, in order to avoid glyphosate from oats, you have to buy organic.

Regarding the USDA Organic seal, all USDA Organic food is Non-GMO but not all Non-GMO food is organic. The USDA states that “produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides”. For organic meat, they say, “regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones”. When it comes to processed foods, the USDA states that “regulations prohibit them containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions. For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non- agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods”.  Essentially, if you buy organic, your food will be free of artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings, glyphosate sprayed directly on crops, added hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides and they are farmed to maintain soil and water quality and conserve biodiversity.

Tips for Buying Organic:
 Use the EGW “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists that they publish every year. The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables the nonprofit organization claims have the highest amount of pesticides when grown conventionally versus organically. The “Clean Fifteen” is a list of produce from conventional growers that generally has less pesticide residue. Using these lists can help you decide where it’s worth putting your money.
 Compare the organic and conventional produce and meat prices side by side. You’ll be surprised how it doesn’t cost much more to buy organic.
 Think about what your family consumes regularly and buy organic. If you or your family drinks a lot of milk, for example, it might be a good idea to buy organic milk.
 Buy a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) share or join a Co-op.
 Shop produce that is in season because it’s usually more affordable,
tastes better and is higher in nutrients.
 Grow your own organic food.
 Buy in bulk from local farmers.

Written by:

Jenni Terry
Health Coach

Stephanie Ritari, PA-C

Stephanie Ritari is a board-certified Physician Assistant who offers primary care for adults at the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and has spent the majority of her career in the field of cardiovascular disorders.

Stephanie has more than 15 years experience as a Physician Assistant in a variety of medical areas, including cardiology and electrophysiology. Holistic practices have long been a part of Stephanie’s lifestyle, with a particular focus on clean living and nutrition. She has embedded functional principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. After watching family members struggle to find answers for their chronic illnesses, Stephanie became more interested in finding ways to take a root cause approach in her own practice. Wanting to provide a proactive, comprehensive, and preventative scope of care for her patients, Stephanie began studying functional medicine. In 2021, she joined Functional Medicine of Idaho, where she is able to provide evidence based, root cause medicine.

Stephanie earned her Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Montana and her masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine. 

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and dog doing outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing. She also loves interior design and traveling, and is hoping to start her own garden in the near future.

Dr. David Musnick, MD, IFMCP

David Musnick is a board-certified medical doctor who offers in-person and telemedicine care from the Functional Medicine of Idaho Eagle clinic (coming soon). Dr. Musnick offers Functional Medicine, Sports Medicine, Functional Immunology, and Primary Care for adults and teenagers. He specializes in sports medicine, internal medicine, frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), scars, homeopathy, prolotherapy, and low-level laser treatments. 

Dr. Musnick is interested in getting to the root of underlying causes and factors that affect healing, including diet, sleep, exercise, stress, GI health, brain region health, toxins, hormones, infections, and electromagnetic fields (EMF). In medical school, Dr. Musnick spent a year studying nutrition. He has always been interested in the complex interrelationships of different systems of the body. Taking on challenges in the past, he created new treatment programs to heal the brain after concussion, treat chronic pain, arthritis, and tough SIBO and IBS cases. Dr. Musnick wants to help his patients achieve the highest level of health, vitality and function. 

After his internal medicine residency in Seattle, Dr. Musnick completed a fellowship in sports medicine where he became interested in helping patients get back to optimal musculoskeletal health and eventually back to their favorite activities. He quickly learned that many areas of the body were interrelated and started learning more about nutrition, supplements, and other facets of functional medicine. Dr. Musnick has more than 24 years of experience in Functional Medicine and achieved a very high level of both experience and expertise with many health conditions. He is also the author of the book, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, and helped in writing textbook chapters on arthritis and concussions.

Dr. Musnick received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. He also studied in the French school of Homeopathy. He is uniquely rare in that he teaches Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and how to integrate it with functional medicine. 

In his spare time, Dr. Musnick enjoys hiking, nature photography, cooking healthy food, mountain biking, and skiing.

IFM Certified Practitioner

Aaron Dykstra, DNP, FNP-C

Aaron Dykstra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He offers pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Functional and alternative therapies were a part of Aaron’s life from a young age, and he has implemented these principles into his conventional medicine practice throughout his career. Aaron has more than 8 years of experience in a variety of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics, mental health, and nutrition. He has practiced in rural health clinics in California and Oregon. For the last 5 years, Aaron has had a passion for working with children and implementing positive change through the family unit. Aaron joined the Functional Medicine of Idaho Pediatric Team in 2021. His enthusiasm for educating children and parents about living a healthy lifestyle allows him to provide preventative and acute care for infants, children, and adolescents. 

Aaron obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brigham Young University. He earned both his Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Arizona. He has obtained a Family Herbalist and Family Nutritionist certifications through The School of Natural Healing by Dr. Christopher. He is currently working towards his certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Aaron spending time with his wife and 5 kids, mountain biking, running, or camping in the backyard. Aaron is a big fan of Master Chef and enjoys cooking.

Nadia Kravchuk, DNP, FNP-C

Nadia Kravchuk is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. She offers functional pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Nadia and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 where they first settled in Oregon and then moved to Idaho in 2001. Complementary medicine practices were embedded into her lifestyle at a young age, and she has implemented these principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. She has more than 15 years experience in a variety of medical environments, including emergency room, intensive care unit, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, and aesthetics.

Nadia joined Functional Medicine of Idaho so that she can combine functional principles with the foundations of conventional medicine to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. As an avid gardener, beekeeper, and sustainable living enthusiast, she understands the importance and role of optimizing nutrition, sleep, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. She has a passion for pediatric functional medicine and understands that early recognition and interventions can correct imbalances, prevent chronic illness, and improve overall outcomes for children.

Nadia obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University. She earned both her Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through Frontier Nursing University. In 2017, she was the recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Nadia working on her urban homestead, hiking, foraging, camping, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and her dog, Wolfy. She is also fluent in both English and Russian.