Roots Market, an organic grocer in Clarksville and Olney, plans to highlight non- genetically modified ingredients this month.

"Genetically modified organisms" or GMOs, are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques of biotechnology, or genetic engineering, according to the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit working to build sources of non-GMO products. The group, which designated October as non-GMO Month, says the experimental technology, which merges DNA from different species, creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes.

"With GMOs now contaminating as much as 80 percent of conventional packaged foods, we are more committed than ever to offering our customers safe, healthy non-GMO choices," said Jeff Kaufman, owner of Roots. "We believe people have the right to know what's in their food."

Roots, one of 1,500 food retailers across North America trying to raise awareness this month, plans to set up special end cap displays to show off its GMO-free products.  The market has discontinued many items with GMO ingredients and looks for organic/non-GMO alternatives. All its corn and soy-based products, such as tortilla chips and tofu, are organic or non-GMO.

The grocer points to growing concern over GMO's in packaged food, including requests for the Food and Drug Administration to require mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling bills in June, and other states are considering similar laws.

GMO labeling is mandatory in 64 countries, including Australia, Russia, China and in all of Europe, but no such requirements exist in the U.S.

The non-GMO Project offers a third-party verification of non-GMO products that's gaining in popularity in the natural products industry.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com