woman shopping in the grocery store


Maya McCluen holding a grocery basket

The UConn Extension New Technologies in Agricultural Extension (NTAE) team developed an interactive learning activity (or game), Unpeeled: The Case Studies of Maya McCluen, in August, 2021. The purpose of this game is to increase our audiences’ understanding of food marketing labels. The development of the game is made possible through support by the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University. The Extension Foundation supports this team through key informant expertise to help grow the overall project.

Participation will give consumers more knowledge about food labels they read in the store and reduce confusion they may experience while grocery shopping.

Play the game at https://unpeeled.nmsu.edu/.

Facts About Organic Food

  1. All organic food is non-GMO. 
  2. Organic does not mean no pesticides are used. All Pesticides must be approved by the USDA. The standard for allowed pesticides is natural and non-synthetic, not for safety. Some are toxic, some are not. 
  3. Organic food does not necessarily have a higher nutritional content than other foods.
  4. Organic food is often produced on large farms - it does not mean it is local.
  5. The term organic is a certification designation that comes from the USDA. It has nothing to do with safety, nutrition, or environmental health. 

Facts About Natural Food

  1. Natural foods can be GMOs and do not have to be organic. They can be grown with pesticides and the term “Natural” can be added to any food product. Natural does not mean there is higher nutritional value nor does it mean that it is non-toxic. 
  2. Natural labels only address how the food is processed and identifies food as not continuing any artificial or synthetic ingredients.
  3. There is no certification or regulatory process.

Facts About Non-GMO Food

  1. Genetically-modified organisms are bioengineered products where the genetics are changed on purpose using DNA technology. 
  2. Not all GMOs are produced by corporations. Some are produced by universities to solve nutritional and environmental problems. 99% of scientists that study GMOs specifically understand them to be safe. 
  3. Research states that GMO food sources do not have any more negative effects on health than foods from non-GMO sources.
  4. The only crops that have a GMO version are alfalfa, Arctic apples, canola, corn, cotton, eggplant (one variety), papaya (one variety), pineapple (one variety), potatoes, AquAdvantage salmon, soybean, squash, and sugar beets. 
  5. Products labeled as non-GMO can be misleading if no GMO version exists. 
  6. Effective January 1, 2022, all products made with GMO ingredients must state this, but it may be difficult to find as it could simply be a phone number or a QR code.