Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Avoid GMOs in Your Food

There has been a lot of press lately about GMOs (genetically modified organisms.) There is also a lot of confusion about what they are, and how and why you might want to avoid them.
Here's what they are: Genetically modified organisms have had their genes spliced with those of other species. The term GMO does not apply to selective breeding, natural or artificial selection, or any other practice or genetic combination that Mother Nature might have come up with on her own. The term refers only to organisms that have been subjected to gene splicing. Whether this practice is safe or beneficial is not actually what I'm going to talk about today. That is way too big and complex a question for one little blog post!
I'm going to talk about why you should think twice about the GMO crops that are already in the food chain. It's not because of the crops themselves - it's because of how they're grown.
Monsanto, the world's biggest producer of pesticides and herbicides, takes genes from organisms that resist their toxic products and splices genes from them into food crops. Those GMO food crops are grown with an extra huge dose of toxic chemicals. 
Most of Monsanto's seed is called "Roundup Ready" - that means that the crops won't die from being sprayed with hefty doses of Monsanto's herbicide called Roundup. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been linked to kidney damage, liver damage, infertility, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Monsanto has blocked in-depth study of the effects of its products.
Those Roundup Ready, heavily sprayed crops are used as animal feed and wind up in most of your food.
There has been a lot of controversy about labeling GMOs, and a picture of an apple is often used as an illustration. That is confusing, because there are no GMO apples on the market - yet. You can bet they're in the pipeline, but they are not yet in stores.
Most veggies and fruits are not currently GMO. If it is not local or certified organic, you can bet it is heavily sprayed with pesticides and other potentially dangerous, unstudied chemicals. But with the exception of some zucchini, papaya, and most corn, the produce isn't GMO.
If you eat animal products, be extremely careful about where your meat, dairy, and eggs come from. The animals themselves are not GMO, but most of their feed is. I'll say that again: There are not yet GMO animal products on the market (though there will likely be GMO salmon in stores very soon.) But a huge portion of the GMO corn and soy grown in the U.S. goes into animal feed.

If you want to avoid GMOs, avoid soy, corn, and canola unless it is certified organic. That means pretty much all processed food, and almost anything that comes in a package. The word "natural" on a label is meaningless unless it also says Certified Organic. The word natural is not regulated, and manufacturers are allowed to write it on anything they want.

Avoid non-organic canola and soy oil. Both are sometimes called vegetable oil. Avoid soy protein, vegetable protein, tofu, fake meats, and all other soy products unless they are marked as certified organic. Avoid corn meal, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, and popcorn unless it is labelled as certified organic. Avoid processed foods including cereals and baked goods that contain any corn or soy ingredients. Doing that, you will eliminate the majority of the GMOs in your diet.
There are also Roundup-ready GMO sugar beets. Avoid non-organic sugar, or choose sugar that is labelled specifically as cane sugar, to be safe. Sugar beets are not the beets sold as veggies; they're a specific variety that is processed for sugar. You don't have to be concerned yet about the beets you buy as vegetables.

Also avoid meat and other products from animals fed GMOs - that is ALL so-called conventionally raised beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy. The animals themselves are not genetically modified, but their food is. Most of the corn and soy raised in the U.S. actually goes into animal feed.

Animals on so-called conventional farms are fed genetically modified corn and soy that is sprayed with all sorts of toxic chemicals, including a toxic herbicide called Roundup. The animals eat the chemically sprayed food. The chemicals concentrate in the animals' fat tissue. You eat the animal, and now you are full of those chemicals.

To avoid GMOs, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy as much as you can from local farmers you trust at farmers markets. What you can't get locally, get the cleanest you can. Be even more choosy about your meat and other animal products than you are about produce. For beef and lamb, grass fed is best. Pasturing animals is important for their health and yours.
This is not where you want your food to come from
If you can't afford organic/grass fed/pastured for everything (and who can,) be most selective about animal products. For produce, follow the Environmental Working Group's recommendations to buy organic for the most highly sprayed produce, and get conventional for the rest. Buy organic or local apples, celery, peppers, and lettuce. Buy strawberries in season from local farmers who don't use toxic sprays. You know the ones from California don't taste like anything by the time they get here anyway! It's okay to buy conventional avocados, mangos, and other produce that is not sprayed as much.

The current guide can be found here:

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