6 Easy Ways to Avoid Genetically Modified Food
As you continue to make healthy food choices, it’s important to think about where your food comes, and to know if it has been genetically modified. GMO (genetically modified organisms,) and GE (genetically engineered) refers to a process where seeds are modified or engineered in a laboratory to change the molecular structure of the crop. This process is intended to produce crops that are resistant to insects, herbicides, and drought, allowing for a supposed increase in the amount of saleable goods. However, as you begin to learn about the GM process, it is sobering to consider the far reaching impact.
To begin, GM crops have not been tested for safety by the USDA, FDA, or EPA and products sold in the United States are not required to state they contain GM ingredients. What is known about the GM process is that it destroys up to six pounds of soil for every pound of food produced. In addition, similar to virus resistance to antibiotics, certain types of weeds are becoming resistant to herbicides. This results in the use of stronger, more toxic chemicals being used in the fields. Another concern with GM farming is the unintended consequence of GM seeds spreading to non-GM crops via pollination and wind.
According to the USDA, 90% of feed corn, 93% of soybeans, and 90% of cotton harvested in the United States has been exposed to GM practices. Since many large scale farms use GM corn and alfalfa to feed their livestock, the dairy and meat products they sell will contain those ingredients. This is in addition to the possible use of livestock growth hormones. GM products are also found in many processed foods. The biggest offenders on the GM list include corn, soybeans, canola, sugar (cane sugar is okay) summer squash, dairy, and papayas.
While our grocery stores are filled with GM products and ingredients, there are things you can do to either eliminate or greatly reduce your exposure. Here are six things to keep in mind:
- Read labels. While there is no requirement to state that a product contains GM ingredients, the following items indicate a high probability: aspartame, corn flour, soy flour, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar, xanthan gum, and maltodextrin.
- Avoid processed foods, which contain many of the ingredients listed above.
- Buy produce, meat, and dairy items marked “Certified Organic.” These products do not have any GM ingredients.
- Shop at local farmer’s markets. This allows you to ask about the farm’s practices and ensure their crops are non GM.
- Check out the Center for Food Safety’s guide to non GM shopping at http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/fact-sheets/1974/true-food-shoppers-guide-to-avoiding-gmos.
- For additional tech support, check out some of the available shopping applications (apps) that assist in shopping for Non GM foods: Three good choices are “True Food Shoppers Guide,” “Non GMO Project Shopping Guide,” and “Shop No GMO.”
Genetically modified or engineered foods are a health, environmental, political, and economic issue. Knowledge is power, and the more you learn about how the foods you eat are produced, the more you will continue to make healthy choices for yourself and your family. The good news is that most fruits and vegetables are non-GM, and that as awareness of the risks of GM foods increases, there are more options available for consumers.
We hope you are enjoying the early signs of spring. Pretty soon you will begin to notice the daffodil, tulip, and crocus buds. That’s hopeful, considering the mounds of remaining snow!
Next time we will look at the maple sugaring off, a classic spring tradition in the northeast. We will also provide some healthful maple recipes.