What You Absolutely Need to Know About Genetically Modified Foods

How much of what you eat is genetically modified?

What you should know about genetically modified foods in regard to your health.
The genetic modification of foods has become one of the hot and controversial topics of this century. Learn how to make informed decisions.

When you go to the supermarket, do you know which foods are genetically engineered? It’s okay if you don’t, as most people aren’t sure either.

 

It’s certainly understandable as you’re forced to remember all sorts of things when it comes to food. You’re expected to watch the fat content (primarily trans fats and saturated fats) and the amount of sodium in foods you ordinarily eat in order to stay healthy and strong.

 

You also need to know whether a product has anything that you or your family is allergic to in it, and so much more. So, is it really necessary to add one more thing to your already overflowing list of grocery shopping responsibilities?

 

In short, the answer is yes. Why?

 

Ultimately, you should know everything that you put into your body – from foods to supplements to anything else you choose to ingest. Your health and that of your family is in your hands, so the more you know about the items you consume, the more you’re able to make informed decisions in regard to your own health and welfare.

 

It’s important to understand what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are and, perhaps most importantly, what foods you can find them in (and what foods you won’t). That way, you can make an informed decision about whether you’re comfortable feeding them to your family, and know how to avoid them if you’re not.

 

What exactly are GMOs?

 

GMOs are food sources that have altered DNA. Essentially, “food scientists” use organisms, bacteria, or viruses to get food that has desired traits (such as disease resistance to keep the crop healthy or pesticide tolerance so it isn’t affected by insecticides and pesticides).

 

How is this any different from farmers selectively breeding crops to get larger harvests?

 

Farmers work to grow crops with the desired traits as well, but they rely on the natural reproductive processes of the organisms versus adding foreign genes that are engineered in the lab.

 

Are GMOs in the foods that I am eating today?

 

Realistically, you’ve likely been eating GMOs for quite some time and have been completely unaware of it.  Scientists conducted the first GE (genetically engineered) food trials in the late 1980s, and now they’re found in approximately 65% of foods found in grocery stores across the U.S.

 

Are food companies required to notify consumers if their products contain GMOs?

 

It is estimated that 60-70 countries currently require GMO food labeling, but the United States is not currently one of them. Some agencies and organizations are lobbying for the labeling, but as with any other legislative action, it may take some time to get an answer on this issue, as the food lobbyists in Washington, DC, who are completely against labeling, are quite powerful.

 

So, what are some examples of food that are genetically modified?

 

Here is a list of some of the foods you’ll find at your local supermarket that have likely been genetically modified:

 

  • Soy: There is a bacterial gene inserted into soybeans to make them herbicide resistant and soy is present in foods such as bread, chocolates, and many other health foods.
     
  • Canola Oil: Also known as rapeseed, canola is modified to be resistant to herbicides as well. Since a lot of baked or fried goods contain canola oil, most of them will contain GMOs.
     
  • Cottonseed Oil: A majority of cotton is genetically modified to produce Bt toxin, so cottonseed oil is on this list as well.
     
  • Sugar: The FDA approved the labeling of GMO Beet Sugar as plain old “Sugar”, so it’s possible that it is in some processed foods under this blanket label.
     
  • Milk: Approximately 40% of dairy products are currently genetically modified.
     
  • Corn: Almost anything with high fructose syrup, cornstarch, or corn flour is likely going to contain GMOs.
     
  • Squash and Zucchini: Both of these particular veggies have varieties that have been genetically modified to be virus resistant.
     
  • Papayas: Almost three-quarters of papayas grown in Hawaii are genetically engineered (GE).
     
  • Aspartame: This low calorie sweetener contains GMOs, so you’ll find them in most any product that is labeled as “diet” or “sugar-free.”

 

Are there any foods that I've heard might be genetically modified—but actually aren't?

 

Yes there are and here are a few of them:

 

  • Potatoes: Although there used to be genetically modified potatoes on the market, they have long since been removed.

     

  • Seedless watermelon: While it would seem plausible that a fruit that produces no seeds has been bioengineered, the seedless watermelon is actually not genetically modified.

     

  • Protein Sources: Currently there are no meat, fish, or egg products which are genetically engineered.

     

  • Soy milk: While 93% of soy grown in the United States is genetically engineered, most major brands of soy milk, such as Silk, are GMO-free.

     

  • Rice: There are no GMO approved rice varieties at the current time, but the Philippines is working on a rice that has altered to include beta-carotene in an attempt to deal with vitamin A deficiency that is prevalent in some countries.

     

 

How about organic foods? Do organic foods contain GMOs?

 

Organic foods are not permitted to contain GMOs, so they are good choices for anyone looking to either control or eliminate the GMOs in their diet.

 

Are GMOs safe to eat?

 

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this question. Some scientists who are anti-GMO have concerns that they may cause allergy related issues, but others say that they are 100% safe to eat.

 

What can I do if I don’t want GMO’s in my food?

 

Luckily, you have quite a few options. As mentioned above, you can buy organic foods as they are GMO-free. How do you know if something is organic? One way is to become familiar with food label codes on your produce.

 

How to identify food by food label codes:

 

  • 4 Digit Numbers – Food is conventionally produced
     
  • 5 Digit Number that Starts with “8” – The product is genetically modified
     
  • 5 Digit Number that Starts with “9” – The product is organic and GMO-free

 

If it is meat that you’re concerned about, make sure the animal was 100% grass fed and look for labeling that signifies that the product is non-GM. You can also buy direct from local sources, as most GMO foods come from larger industrial food companies.

 

When eating out, avoid foods cooked with any oil other than olive oil, and you can always ask that the chef prepare your meal with butter instead. Order organic menu options if offered and choose homemade menu items over anything that may have been made from boxed or canned ingredients.

 

Because GMOs are present in a lot of processed foods, you can also cut most of them out by making your own meals from scratch (remember that some whole foods do have GMOs in them, so you’ll want to check them out prior to using them as ingredients if you’re going GMO-free). Grow your own produce and you’ll guarantee that you’re not eating GMO products.

 

Educate yourself as a consumer and know what you’re putting in your body. The decision is yours, so the most you can do for you and your family is make it with both eyes wide open.

 

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