If you’re trying to stay away from food products that contain high fructose corn syrup or MSG, you can read the ingredient labels. But if you’re trying to avoid genetically modified organisms, it’s not so straightforward, as I explained recently in a radio interview with Tommie McNeil of WVTF in central Virginia.
And that’s a shame, because more and more people these days are waking up to the potential dangers of GMOs in their food. Studies on humans may not yet be conclusive, but animal studies have shown endocrine disruption and other problems associated with eating GMO food. To protect their citizens, some European nations have banned the production or importation of GMOs, but in the U.S., our food supply is full of them.
Soy, corn and sugar beets are three of the biggest crops likely to be GMO. And here’s where it gets tricky. You may not think that you eat much of these crops, but they’re ingredients in many processed foods. Even some produce is likely to be GMO, including alfalfa and zucchini.
But unlike high fructose corn syrup or MSG, GMOs are not required to be listed on food ingredient labels in the U.S. This means that manufacturers can sneak GMOs into almost any food product.
So, if you want to avoid GMOs, how can you do it?
First, buy Certified Organic, a designation that, by law, excludes GMO ingredients.
Second, buy directly from local farmers whom you trust. Many smaller family farms that operate essentially organically cannot afford the outlay of time and money required to join the USDA’s National Organic Program. But these farms still provide clean, high quality food free of dangerous chemicals and GMOs. At farmers markets or farm stands you can ask farmers directly about their use of GMO seed and you can buy only from those whom you trust to be GMO-free.
Third, check out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide which also features a smart phone app for sale.
Fourth, there is a label on foods now that are part of the “Non-GMO Verified” program.
Fifth, shop the perimeter of the grocery store, which contains produce and other foods in unprocessed form, while avoiding the middle sections of the store, which house the processed foods that tend to contain the most GMOs (unless otherwise noted).
Finally, when purchasing meat, poultry and dairy, the food that the animals are fed may also contain hormones, antibiotics and GMOs. Buying less meat and more vegetables can stretch your grocery budget and make it more affordable to get organic food or food that is free of both GMOs (and free of hormones and antibiotics too).
It can be extra effort and expense to try to eat only non-GMO food, but if you want to eat food the way nature intended, it’s time and money well spent.