What are GMOs?
Historically, plants have been genetically engineered to select desirable traits including growth, size, speed, sweetness, insect resistance and water resistance. However, many of the GMOs grown today are engineered to resist herbicides which has led to herbicide-resistant “super-weeds” and “super-bugs”. While GMO crops do not require as many chemicals, time, machinery and land to be produced than organic crops, the DNA changes result in unpredictable and uncontrollable potential side effects due to the unstable and unnatural combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and/or viral genes. Most notably, GMOs carry the risk of significant allergies as well as increased risks of exposure to antibiotic qualities of foods.
Overall, there is not enough evidence regarding the effect of GMOs on humans and our planet, so being mindful of GMO crops is important. While this lack of research may not deter you from purchasing genetically modified products, it’s important to note that most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe and have banned or restricted their production and sales. The U.S. and Canadian governments have approved GMOs due to some scientific studies, but it’s important to note that these studies have been either funded or conducted by corporations that benefit from GMO products.
To further complicate matters, the U.S. does not require GMO labeling. So, what are some ways to ensure avoidance of genetically engineered and modified products?
1. Purchase Organic Food with “Non-GMO” labels
When shopping, look for certified organic products with labels such as “100% organic,” “certified organic” or “made without genetically modified ingredients.” These products are not allowed to contain GMOs. Keep in mind, if you see products labeled “made with organic ingredients,” this means that only 70% of the ingredients must be non-GMO.
2. Simply avoid common GMO crops
Several common GMO crops can be found in product ingredients including: corn, soybeans, sugar, canola and cottonseed. These crops are commonly present in processed foods so transitioning to a whole foods diet without packaged food can be the easiest way to avoid GMOs!
You may find these foods under various names:
• Corn: corn flour, cornmeal, corn oil, cornstarch, gluten, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, glucose, and/or modified food starch
• Soy: soy flour, tofu, soy lecithin, soy protein, soy isolate, vegetable oil, vegetable fat and vegetable protein, tempeh
• Canola: canola oil (or rapeseed oil)
• Cotton: cottonseed oil
• Sugar: sugar (that is not listed as 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or organic sugar), malitol, maltose, mannitol, dextrose, sorbitol, inverse syrup, glucose,
3. Purchase organic fruits and vegetables that are commonly genetically modified
While many fruits and vegetables are not genetically modified, be mindful of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, alfalfa, papaya, apples, potatoes and sweet corn. You can also determine if produce is genetically modified by checking out the PLU (produce look-up) code on its sticker.
• If the code is just four digits, this means that it is conventionally grown (not organic or GMO).
• If the code is five digits starting with an “8,” this indicates that it is genetically modified.
• If the code is five digits and starts with a “9,” the product is organic and non-GMO.
4. Avoid processed food in general due to hidden GM sources including:
Artificial sweeteners, xanthan gum, baking powder, caramel color, tamari, tocopherols, cellulose, isoflavones, citric acid, lactic acid, cobalamin, lecithin, trehalose, leucine, triglyceride, lysine, maltodextrin, monooleate, cyclodextrin, methylcellulose, glycine, glycerol, glycerin, cysteine, milo starch, hemicellulose, dextrin, monosodium glutamate MSG, hydrogenated starch, diacetyl, starch, diglyceride, oleic acid, inositol, phenylalanine, phytic acid, stearic acid, glycerides, glutamate/glutamic acid, and even synthetic Vitamins (B12 and E)
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