How Can I Avoid Genetically Modified Food?
By now, most of us have heard about Genetically Modified Ingredients (GMOs) in food. When I discuss GMOs with friends or clients, most people ask how they know if their favorite product (either packaged or as a whole food) that they buy from the grocery store or farmer’s market is GMO free. That is an excellent question.
Under current federal law (Public Law 75-717), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may only require additional labeling of foods derived from GE sources if that agency can scientifically verify a substantive material difference, such as a different nutritional profile, between the GE product and its non-GE counterpart. To date, the FDA has not determined a substantive material difference or human health impact for GE foods that meets this legal standard. However, the FDA has released guidance for food companies wishing to label their products as GE or non-GE. Additional information on this new FDA voluntary labeling guidance is available at: http://1.usa.gov/1N1KlcZ.
Here are six ways to be a savvy shopper and avoid GMOs:
Buy USDA Certified Organic Products
GMOs are prohibited in organic food. Look for products with the USDA certified organic seal.
USDA rules require that organic certifiers test samples from at least 5% of the operations they certify on an annual basis. However, there may still be GMOs in organic produce and products. While GMOs are prohibited in USDA organic foods, organic crops can be contaminated by GMOs through cross-pollination caused by wind drift from nearby GMO farms, or spillage of GM seeds along highways during transport. Consequently, the proliferation of GMOs is a real threat to organic farming. It is simply not possible to grow GM crops near organic crops without risking contamination.
Buy Non-GMO Project Verified Products
A few important things of note here:
When it comes to detecting GMOs, the Non-GMO Project utilizes a much more rigorous process than the one employed by the USDA’s National Organic Program. However, the Non-GMO Project does not account for super-toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other substances prohibited in USDA certified organic products like antibiotics. Non GMO label doesn’t consider animal welfare either. Non GMO label’s objective is simply to identify genetically-modified ingredients.
That is why I will always choose USDA certified organic over Non-GMO Project Verified. If you can buy a product that is USDA certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, that is the best of both worlds.
Get to Know the High Risk GM-Crops
In the U.S., here are eight main crops that are incredibly high risk of being genetically-modified. If they’re not USDA certified organic, 5 of them (corn, canola, cotton, soy and sugar beets) are almost sure to be GM.
- Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
- Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
- Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Papaya (about 50% of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)
- Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
- Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
- Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)
Many non-organic products are labeled as “Non-GMO”. Yet, if it is not Non-GMO Project Verified, then the claim is unsubstantiated. Knowing which crops are high risks will give you a much better idea of the likelihood that the label is accurate.
Avoid Common Ingredients Derived from GMO Risk Crops
The following is a list of common ingredients or products derived from high-risk crops that you may want to pay attention to:
- Corn – Corn flour, corn gluten, corn masa, corn starch, corn syrup, cornmeal, High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), and sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose.
- Soy – Soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy isoflavones, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, tamari, tempeh, and soy protein supplements.
- Sugar Beets – Sugar not specified as 100% cane sugar is likely from GM-sugar beets.
- Cotton – Cottonseed oil
- Canola – Canola oil (also called rapeseed oil)
- Vegetable oil – vegetable fat and margarines can be made from soy, corn, or cottonseed, as well as canola.
Avoid Animal Products That May Have Been Exposed to GMOs.
Consuming non-pastured raised and non-organic animal products may be very risky. Here’s why:
Non-organic dairy products may have come from cows who have been injected with the GM-hormone recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
Non-organic animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, most likely have come from animals that have eaten GM-feed.
Eat Animal products that have been humanely and sustainably pasture raised.
This is a must! Choosing organic animal products means the farms adhere to organic food principles,
- Animals are born and raised on certified organic pastures.
- Animals never receive antibiotics or growth promoting hormones.
- Animals are fed only certified organic grains and grasses.
- Animals have unrestricted outdoor access.
If you are already choosing organic meat, consider taking another step: avoid beef/cows raised on grain, which their systems are incapable of properly digesting, in favor of grass-fed AND grass finished beef. When not noted, the rancher may finish off the cow’s last months of life on grains. So make sure that your meat is organic, grass fed and grass finished.
Did you see the recent segment on Dr. Oz entitled “No to GMOs: The Global Conspiracy to Keep You From Knowing the Truth About Your Food”?
It was amazing! Watch it here.:
1 This entity does field testing on every base ingredient in a product and does not allow any of its verified products to contain more than 0.9% of genetically-modified ingredients. Since GMOs are so widespread, it is nearly impossible to find something that is 100% GMO-free, and this 0.9% is the same standard that Europe uses as well.
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