Ever since I first heard of GMOs, something told me to be wary. I simply didn't trust the idea and that has never changed. I've always tried to avoid them but recently realized I could be doing a better job. So I set out to simplify the process. I think the prospect of avoiding GMOs can seem overwhelming and I'm not saying it's easy peasy but once you break it down, it seems much more do-able!
I'm not going to get into the specifics of why you shouldn't support GMO foods, that is entirely your decision and this article is for people who already know they want to avoid them. They are restricted or banned in more than 60 countries though, so that might tell you something.
Okay, first, what is a GMO (genetically modified organism)? It's where the DNA structure has been changed by genetic engineering. It's different than gene mutilation or selective breeding (like seedless watermelon). They are usually made to withstand direct application of certain herbicides. Read more about what they are here.
In the US, the following GMO crops are currently on the market: soy (about 93% is GMO), corn (about 88% is GMO), cottonseed (about 94% is GMO, canola (about 90% is GMO), alfalfa, squash, papaya (about 75% of the Hawaiian crops are GMO), meat (animals are often fed GMO food) and milk (some dairy cows are given a GMO growth hormone). I think that list is shorter than a lot of people would assume. Thing is, soy and corn come in MANY forms and are used in most processed foods. Canola, soy and corn oils are commonly used in restaurants. So while the list is short, it does affect a lot of the foods in the US. From what I understand, sugar beets were on the list until very recently. More than half of the sugar produced in the US comes from sugar beets so that was a big one. More than 60 GMO crops have been approved in the US such as wheat, rapeseed oil, potatoes, rice etc but they are not all currently sold on the market. I've heard that GMO salmon may soon be sold. So keep in the mind that the list of GMO crops is always changing.
GMO labeling is not required in the US and has been a very controversial subject. It would really make it easier for the consumer to know whether or not they are buying a GMO product if it were labeled. I hope that labeling will happen one day but in the mean time, there are other labels we can look for. The NON GMO Project has their own label which you can look for (pictured above). Their website also lists verified non GMO foods and restaurants. Another label to look for is "certified organic"since organic foods cannot legally be GMO and are regulated by the USDA. I only buy organic corn and soy, for example, so that I know it isn't GMO. Between these two labels, avoiding GMOs in the store is much easier. In restaurants, you may want to ask what kind of oils they use and avoid ordering the GMO crop foods. Some of the restaurants I go to do not use any GMO ingredients.
Let's talk a bit more about soy and corn. Unfortunately it's not as simple as just looking for those two words on the product label because there are many different words used. Corn can be listed as xylitol, vanilla, MSG, lysine and many more. You can see a full list here. Soy could be listed as bean curd, lecithin, tamari, vitamin E etc. Full list is here. As you can see, they are very difficult to avoid so again, look for labels like Non GMO Verified or Certified Organic. You can also download a non GMO shopping guide here and check out a list of apps here.
New Health Guide
Non GMO Shopping Guide
Eat Local Grown
Center for Food Safety