While the science is still out on genetically engineered foods, many people are not taking any chances. Through the application of bacterium, scientists genetically engineer food to heighten certain characteristics and/or be resistant to pesticides, all in hopes of increasing yields and generating more profit. Various health questions have been raised though, and many scientists and health professionals argue that further testing is crucial before any concrete conclusion can be drawn.
Unlike in Europe, where GMO foods require labeling or are outright banned, the average US consumer must choose between some serious digging or only buying food labeled 100 percent organic. To simplify this mission, here are 6 GM food groups you’ll want to avoid:
Number 1. Milk/Dairy
Although there are currently no approved “genetically engineered cows,” the modern dairy industry is a heavy user of the GE growth hormone rbGH (or rbST). This helps boost milk production on dairy farms, but may lead to some health concerns. First, this growth hormone sometimes stresses the cows body, leading to certain diseases that must be treated with antibiotics, which end up in the consumer. This can lead to antibiotic resistance and even antibiotic allergic reactions. What’s more, though, is that it is known that rbGH stimulates IGF-1 production, a cancer accelerator in the body.
Even if you find a company that says “No rbGH or rbST,” you still have reason to believe the food is not GMO-free. This is because cattle are often fed genetically modified feed. Buying organic is the best way around this problem!
Number 2. The Oils
The next group to watch out for is cooking oil. As explained by the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, “Unless labeled explicitly, corn, soybean, cottonseed, and canola oils produced in North America almost certainly contain genetically modified products.” Blended oils are also a problem due to the common practice of mixing GMO canola and cottonseed. Here, finding an organic or 100 percent pure oil that isn’t derived from the above plants is the best way to avoid GMO oils – organic olive oil is a personal favorite.
Number 3. Animal Products
Just like milk, animal products (meat, fish, chicken, pork, etc) can be thought of as genetically engineered. Not only are growth hormones an issue, but so is the feed that animals consume – and even that’s not all. Although we mentioned there are no “genetically engineered cows” per se, there are actually genetically engineered farm-raised salmon currently being tested. These may even reach dinner plates in a few years (or less).
Going for 100 percent grass fed beef or 100 percent organic chicken, pork, or lamb is the best way around this. It’s important to remember, though, that GMO alfalfa has recently been approved, so 100 grass fed ruminants may not be safe as before.
Number 4. Sugar and Sweeteners
Sugar beet is one of the largest genetically engineers crops in the nation, and with corn being another huge GMO crop, food sweetened with high fructose corn syrup should also be avoided. Unless it’s labeled organic, your best bet is to go with organic alternatives like honey or agave syrup. Also, keep in mind that cane sugar is also not GMO!
Number 5. The Cereals and Breakfast Foods
Many cereals and breakfast foods today contain trace ingredients that are GMO – namely soy and corn additives or sugars like those mentioned above. Unfortunately, to eat around this, you’ll probably have to drop your favorite cereal with mini-marsh mellows and shooting stars. I personally switched to an organic granola cereal with some freshly sliced bananas I add in for taste – yum!
Number 6. Fruits and Vegetables
Although there are not many genetically engineered fruits or vegetables in the US, packaged, frozen, or canned fruits or vegetables often have GMO additives. Some fruits and veggies are actually coated with GMO made wax or oil before hitting the shelves. Some GE foods in this category are zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, and papaya from Hawaii.
Luckily, fruit has an easy code system to figure out if its GMO or organic. If the fruit has only 4 digits on its PLU code, it is conventionally grown and may be GE. If it has 5 numbers starting with an 8, then it is GMO, and if it starts with a 9, it is organic. Unfortunately, the ’8′ for GMO is only voluntary, and many (if not all) skip passing this information on to consumers. If it is available, look for the USDA organic label.
Some Basic Tips
To help you and your family avoid GMO foods, here are a few basic tips to consider: