Reading and learning about our food industry can really be quite depressing. All kinds of preservatives, additives, colorings and synthetic ingredients are found in so many of our packaged foods. Is it really necessary to add yellow food coloring to a jar of pickles? I think I’d much prefer the natural coloring to the neon yellow, plus I won’t have to worry about all the side effects food coloring has been linked to.
Another growing concern in the food industry is genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). According to the NonGMO Project, as much as 80% of packaged foods contain genetically modified ingredients. That is a huge number. Even if you avoid processed foods you still run the risk of your produce being genetically modified or the meat and animal products you purchase may contain them from the animals being fed genetically modified food. Non-food items such as shampoo, soaps and detergents may also contain genetically modified ingredients.
Little research has been done to know what side effects GMOs can have on the body and the environment. The worst part is these foods and products aren’t required to be labeled as genetically modified, so we don’t really know what we are getting.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have mandatory labels for not only how something is grown or made- be it organic, conventional, genetically altered or with synthetic fertilizer and pesticides – but the labels should also list the country of origin.
I’ve noticed many products will only show the distributor or packaging company, which is not necessarily the same as the country it originated from. I personally would like to know what I am eating and where it came from.
Below are some helpful tips on how to avoid GMOs.
KNOW WHICH PRODUCTS ARE HIGH RISK FOR BEING GENETICALLY MODIFIED
Crops: Alfalfa, Canola, Corn, Cotton, Flax, Papaya, Rice, Soy, Sugar Beets, Yellow Summer Squash, Zucchini.
Animal Products: Milk, Meat, Eggs, Honey and other Bee Products can also contain GMOs from feed or other sources.
*According to the NON-GMO shopping guide only a small amount of FRESH fruits and veggies are genetically modified with the highest risk being zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet corn and papaya that comes from Hawaii or China. Keep an eye on packaged, frozen and canned fruits and veggies as they may contain added GM ingredients even if the fruit or vegetable itself hasn’t been genetically altered.
BEWARE OF HIDDEN AND DERIVATIVE GMO INGREDIENTS
The following are just some of the items that have the potential to be genetically modified. Many of these ingredients are found in so many foods and some are also used in home cooking and baking. For a complete list see: NON-GMO Shopping Guide.
Aspartame, baking powder, canola oil, citric acid, confectioners sugar, corn flour, corn oil, cornstarch, condensed milk, food starch, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, glucose, milk powder, mono and diglycerides, sorbitol, soy milk, soy protein, soy sauce, sugar (unless it is cane sugar), vegetable oil, vitamin b12, vitamin E, whey, whey powder, xanthan gum
Look for USDA Certified Organic, or other Organic Certifications such as CCOF and QAI
Foods that have the USDA Organic Seal must follow growing guidelines so that the food is free from antibiotics, radiations, conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and they cannot be genetically modified. There are different “levels” of organic labeling.
100% Organic – All ingredients must be organic.
USDA Organic – At least 95% of ingredients must be organic.
Made with Organic Ingredients – At least 70% of ingredients must be organic.
Now, after reading this I wondered about the remaining percentages in products that don’t contain 100% Organic ingredients. Here’s what I found on the USDA’s Blog:
“When packaged products indicate they are “made with organic [specific ingredient or food group],” this means they contain at least 70% organically produced ingredients. The remaining non-organic ingredients are produced without using prohibited practices (genetic engineering, for example) but can include substances that would not otherwise be allowed in 100% organic products.”
LOOK FOR NON-GMO
Some brands will now have Non-GMO listed on their packaging. There is also a NON-GMO Project Verified Seal for products that have been verified through this organization.
LOOK AT PRODUCE PLU NUMBERS
Keep in mind that the PLU label is not always reliable since the labeling is optional and there is a chance for mis-labeling:
A 4 digit number is conventionally grown
A 5 digit number beginning with an 8 is Genetically Modified
A 5 digit number beginning with a 9 is Organic
AVOID PROCESSED PACKAGED FOODS
Cook your own meals to cut down on the artificial ingredients and preservatives you get from processed foods.
Shop at your local Farmer’s Market and ask them how the food was grown.
PLANT A GARDEN
For ultimate control and the freshest ingredients, grow some of your own crops.
My goal is to share this information so you will know what to look for if you choose to avoid GMOs. I know not everyone can afford to buy all organic products or wants to remove all processed foods from their diets. In fact, it can get overwhelming trying to change everything overnight. I’ve been taking small steps to avoid GMOs and move away from processed foods as much as possible. What you eat and the products you use are a personal choice. Having the information will at least give you some options.
Click here for a free printable PDF so you know what to look for when you are grocery shopping.
Sources and helpful links for more information:
Non-GMO Shopping Guide
– Extensive printable shopping guide that lists brands that are NON-GMO verified. They also have an app for your smart phone.
Non GMO Project
– A 3rd party verification/labeling organization for GMOs. Also has information and a list of products and brands that are verified non-GMO.
– More information about Organic Foods, Pesticides and GMOs.
– Information about PLU Numbers