Genetic modification of food is conducted in order to increase their nutritional value, make them easily adapt to various climatic conditions and improve their disease resistance. The use of GMOs or in other words Genetically Modified Organisms has been approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Although it has been found out by some studies that genetically modified food is harmful to the environment and our health, it has not been agreed scientifically that these foods are characteristically riskier to our health compared to conventional food!
Since many foods we consume may be composed of ingredients made using GMOs, it’s your decision to consume them or not. However, in Europe it’s easier to avoid the consumption of GMO food since the manufacturers are legally bound to label them. But in Canada and US, there is no such legal requirement to label the food regardless whether they are GMO food or not.
Always Practice These Steps To Avoid Genetically Modified OrganismsFood
- Shop for Food With 100% Organic Label
It’s not allowed by the Canadian or the US governments to label food as 100% organic if the food is genetically modified or has been fed with GMO food. And organic food can be identified as they are have a different look and is more expensive than other food.
Look for the approval mark from the following Trusted Organic Certification Institutions:
- Quality Assurance International (QAI)
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
- Oregon Tilth
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If the food is labelled “organic” that may not mean that the food is not GM (genetically modified). Look for food labelled 100% organic otherwise they may contain up to 30% GM organisms. Eggs that have the labels “natural”, “cage-free” or “free range” doesn’t necessarily mean they are not GM. Check for eggs labelled 100% organic.
- Identify Label Numbers of Fruits & Vegies
The codes present in the labels of fruits and vegetables, named as Prince Look UP (PLU) codes, can be used to determine whether the food has been genetically modified or engineered.
- 4 digit number – Indicate that the food has been conventionally produced. The food may or may not be GMO food.
- 5 digit number
- If it begins with 8, it indicates that the food has been genetically modified. However, this may not be the best way to identify genetically engineered food as they may not be PLU labelled since PLU labelling is not compulsory.
- If it begins with 9, it indicates that the food is not genetically modified and is organic.
- Shop for 100% Frass Fed Meat
To avoid buying meat with GMOs, make sure its labelled as 100% pasture-fed or grass-fed. (also called pasture-finished or grass-finished).
In US most cattle are fed 100% with grass but since the latter stages of their life are spent in feedlots, they may be fed with genetically modified corn. The reason for this is that it facilitates marbling and increases intramuscular fat.
- Certain meat such as chicken and pork can’t be fed 100% with grass. Therefore, for chicken and pork, look for the ones labelled as 100% certified organic.
- When buying fish, it’s advised to buy wild caught fish instead of farm raised fish, as the latter is fed with grains containing GMOs.
- Shop for products labelled GMO-free or non-GMO
Although it was quite rare to find food labelled as GMO-free or non-GMO once, due to organizations like Non-GMO Project, these labels are now commonly available on food. You can also search online for websites which list companies which don’t use GM food. However, some of this information may be misleading and incomplete.
- Shop for local food
Most of the GMO food is manufactured at large industrial farms. Therefore, patronizing local co-ops, shopping at farmer’s markets and subscribing to local Community Supported Agriculture farmsis good for your wallet and will also help you avoid genetically modified products.
- When you shop locally, you can interact with the farmer to learn their opinion on GM food and whether they have used GMOs in their products.
- However, shopping for local food can’t guarantee that everything you purchase is GMO-free as many local farmers make use of GM seeds.
- Purchase whole foods
Always buy foods which can be cooked and prepared by yourself. Avoid buying prepared or processed food including fast food. Even though buying prepared food is convenient, you can save money and gain satisfaction and peach of mind when you prepare your own food. If you try cooking your own meals 1-2 times per week, it will make you want to do it more often.
- Grow your own food
Growing your own food lets you know for certain that the food is not genetically modified in any way during the growth process. Be sure to buy seeds that are not genetically modified.
- Non-GMO seeds can be purchased from many websites online such as Seeds Now and Seed Savers.
Identify food with high possibility of GMO presence
- Familiarize with high-risk crops
Identify and have a basic knowledge about the crops that are most likely to have GMOs present. The high-risk crops include canola, soy, zucchini, alfalfa, yellow summer squash, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya and cotton.
- Canola oil also referred to as Rapeseed oil can be found in many processed foods as an ingredient. Use olive oil instead of canola oil for cooking.
- Soy products not only includes soybeans but also soymilk, tofu and edamame. Remember to check for the 100% certified organic label in soy products.
- Although alfalfa is not directly taken in by humans, consumption of meat and dairy products can result in indirect human consumption of alfalfa as it is mostly fed to dairy cows and animals. However, alfalfa is grown with genetic modification methods and also as an organic crop. By consumption of 100% organic dairy products and grass-fed meat, the indirect consumption of GM alfalfa can be avoided.
- Corn includes meal, starch, gluten, syrup, oil and corn flour.
- Sugar beets are present in any type of sugar which is not 100% cane sugar. Be sure to check label.
- As most cows are fed with GM grains and are injected with GM hormones rBGH/rBST, the dairy products produced from their milk contains GMOs. Therefore, you should always check the label for rBGH/rBST free dairy products.
- Always buy papayas grown in regions such as the Caribbean as Hawaiian papayas are GM products.
- Cottonseed oil is commonly found as an ingredient in shortening, margarine and vegetable oil.
- Be aware about ingredients made from GMO crops
When crops are genetically modified, even the ingredients made from those crops contain GMOs. Therefore, you should always read the labels of processed foods before purchase if you want to avoid these GMO ingredients: yeast products, vitamins, xanthan gum, textured vegetable protein, sucrose, monosodium glutamate, molasses, maltodextrins, lactic acid, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, high fructose corn syrup, natural and artificial flavoring, ethanol, sodium citrate, citric acid, sodium ascorbate, ascorbic acid, aspartame, synthetic amino acids.
- 75% of processed food such as bread, cookies and soda contains these ingredients. Careful purchase of healthy food and preparing food by yourself can help avoid these.
- Make use of a GMO shopping guide
Since you can’t be sure whether each and every food you come across is GMO or not, you can use a GMO shopping guide for food. There is an app for both Android and iOS created by the Center for Food Safety which help support your shopping decisions by identifying GMO food. You can either use their online guide or download and use this app.
- Be careful when you dine out
If you dine at a restaurant, you can ask the waitress or the manager about the ingredients in their food and whether they make use of GMO ingredients. It’s safe to avoid corn, corn chips, tortillas, edamame, tofu and products which contain soy or corn. Food which contains sugar will also contain GMO ingredients.
- You can also ask the type of oil which they use for cooking and request for your food to be cooked with olive oil instead of cottonseed oil, margarine, corn oil or vegetable oil.