1. Become familiar with the most common applications of genetic modification.
These are the products (and their derivatives) that are most likely to be genetically modified:Soybeans — Gene taken from bacteria (Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4) and inserted into soybeans to make them more resistant to herbicides. See How to Live With a Soy Allergy for more information on avoiding soy products.
Corn — There are two main varieties of GE corn. One has a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis inserted to produce the Bt toxin, which poisons Lepidoteran pests (moths and butterflies). There are also several things that are resistant to various herbicides present in high fructose corn syrup and glucose/fructose, prevalent in a wide variety of foods in America.
Rapeseed/Canola — Gene added/transferred to make the crop more resistant to herbicide.
Sugar beets — Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Cotton — engineered to produce Bt toxin. The seeds are pressed into cottonseed oil, a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
Dairy — Cows injected with GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
Sugar. In 2012, the FDA approved the sale of GMO beet sugars under the name "SUGAR." So now, when we go to buy "All Natural" Breyers ice cream, we can't even know for sure that we are actually eating regular, natural cane sugar. If you see "CANE SUGAR," there's a good chance it's not GMO. This is one of the biggest frustrations with labeling, as sugar is in so many things, and we might think we're avoiding food that POSSIBLY has GMO sugar, but we're really not.
Corn sold directly to the consumer at roadside stands/markets. Buy only organic corn, popcorn, and corn chips.
Baked goods often have one or more of the common GM ingredients. Why do we need corn or soy in our bread, snacks, and desserts? It's hard to find mixes to use as well. Some brands avoid GMOs; find those you like and try to stick with them. Organic is one option; learning how to cook brownies, etc., from scratch with your own organic oils is another.
2. Buy food labeled 100% organic. The U.S. and Canadian governments do not allow manufacturers to label something 100% organic if that food has been genetically modified or been fed genetically modified feed. You may find that organic food is more expensive and different in appearance from conventional products.
Also, just because something says "organic," it does not mean that it doesn't contain GMOs. In fact, it can still contain up to 30% GMOs, so be sure the label says 100% organic.
3.Trusted Organic Certification institutions include QAI, Oregon Tilth, and CCOF.
Look for their mark of approval on the label of the product. USDA Organic standards pale in comparison. Do not consider a product 100% organic if it is only USDA Organic Certified.
This applies to eggs as well. Eggs labeled "free-range," "natural," or "cage-free" are not necessarily GE-free; look for eggs that are 100% organic.
4. Recognize fruit and vegetable label numbers.
If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.
If it is a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM. However, do not trust that GE foods will have a PLU identifying it as such, because PLU labeling is optional.
If it is a 5-digit number beginning with a 9, it is organic.
5. Purchase beef that is 100% grass-fed. Most cattle in the U.S. are grass-fed but spend the last portion of their lives in feedlots in which they may be given GM corn, the purpose of which is to increase intramuscular fat and marbling. If you're looking to stay away from GMOs, make sure the cattle were 100% grass-fed or pasture-fed (sometimes referred to as grass-finished or pasture-finished).
The same applies to meat from other herbivores, such as sheep.
There is also the slight possibility that the animals were fed GM alfalfa, although this is less likely if you buy meat locally.
With nonruminants like pigs and poultry that cannot be 100% grass-fed, it's better to look for meat that is 100% organic.
6. Seek products that are specifically labeled as non-GMO or GMO-free. It was once rare to find products labeled as such, but thanks to organizations such as the Non-GMO Project, they are becoming more common. You can also research websites that list companies and foods that do not use genetically modified foods, but be aware that some information is often incomplete, and conflicting interests may not be declared.
7. Shop locally. Although more than half of all GM foods are produced in the U.S.,most of it comes from large industrial farms. By shopping at farmers' markets, signing up for a subscription from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or patronizing a local co-op, you may be able to avoid GM products and possibly save money at the same time.
More and more small farms are offering grains and meat directly to customers, in addition to the usual fare (vegetables, fruit, herbs, etc.).
Shopping locally may also give you the opportunity to speak to the farmer and find out how he or she feels about GMOs and whether or not they use them in their own operation.
8. Buy whole foods. Favor foods that you can cook and prepare yourself, rather than foods that are processed or prepared (e.g., anything that comes in a box or a bag, including fast food). What you lose in convenience, you may recover in money saved and satisfaction gained, as well as increased peace of mind. Try cooking a meal from scratch once or twice a week; you may enjoy it and decide to do it more often.
9. Grow your own food. This way, you know exactly what was grown and what went into growing it.
- Don't be fooled by "natural" or "all natural." This is simply clever marketing and has no significance. Studies show that a consumer would prefer the "natural" label over organic! Consumers often think it means organic, but it means nothing insofar as quality or health is concerned.
- Producers who label their food GMO-free don't make any health claims regarding the product.
- QCS is another organic certifying agency of merit.
- At chain and non-chain restaurants, you can ask which, if any, of their foods contain GMOs, but the waiters/waitresses and kitchen staff are not likely to know. Ask them to find out what oils they cook with. It is usually one of the big four: corn, soy, canola, or cottonseed. You may request butter to be used instead, though these are often products from cows fed GM corn feed; it is a secondary product.
- For holidays (such as Halloween) and gatherings (such as children's birthday parties), consider handing out party-favor toys instead of popular candy treats, which often contain sources of GMOs.
- Warnings If you are growing your own plants from seed, make sure the company has taken the "safe seed pledge."
- Sources and Citations
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#Genetic_modification
- ↑ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgenic_maize#Bt_corn
- ↑ http://www.truefoodnow.org/documents/guide%208_11%20layout.pdf
- ↑ http://missourifamilies.org/features/nutritionarticles/nut76.htm
- ↑ http://www.nongmoproject.org/
- ↑ http://www.truefoodnow.org/documents/guide%208_11%20layout.pdf
- ↑ http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/gmfood.shtml