It’s safe to say that even people who don’t make an active attempt at healthy eating would not willingly consume (or feed their families) foods laced with a known cancer causing agent. But unknowingly, that’s exactly what many people are doing, as more than 80% of conventional processed foods contain ingredients made with crops at high risk for genetically modiﬁed organisms (GMOs). Proponents of using genetically modiﬁed organisms tout several beneﬁts, such as crops with a higher resistance to pesticides and greater yield, drought tolerance, and better nutrition. So far, the only one of these “beneﬁts” to be realized is the ability of crops to better withstand direct application of herbicides and pesticides. But whom does this beneﬁt?
How Do GMOs Get In My Food?
According to GMOfreeUSA.org, a consumer advocacy group, the majority of GMO crops grown are genetically engineered to withstand repeated sprayings of Roundup weedkiller. Roundup has been labeled by the World Heath Organization as a Class 2 probable human carcinogen, and Brazil’s National Cancer Institute has made an ofﬁcial public statement linking pesticides to cancer.
As a result, there has been an increase in boxed foods on grocery style aisles with labels declaring them to be “GMO Free.” This successful — and voluntary — marketing effort was formed in response to growing consumer desire to know which foods contain GMOs, and since the US Government does not require products to list them on ingredient lists, non-GMO product manufacturers have gone on the offensive.
A few other companies are also taking the high road and stepping out against GMOs without waiting for government intervention. Panera and Chipotle both removed all pesticide-laced GMO products from their menu, Hershey’s announced it will no longer include them in their products, and McDonald’s declined to use genetically engineered potatoes created with dsRNA technology, which may be linked to autoimmune diseases in vertebrates.
However, according to GMOFreeUSA.org, this last one created a good news/bad news situation. The more than 400 acres of potatoes McDonald’s rejected, were instead sold in grocery stores in 10 states in the Midwest and Southeast unbeknownst to consumers. If these products are not labeled, how will you know if you’re getting a genetically engineered potato?
You will continue to see GMOs in health-related news since the biotechnology industry, namely Monsanto, ﬁghts to keep their place in the food chain and wary consumers ﬁght to get them out. Consumer advocacy groups, as well as consumers themselves, are pushing for mandatory product labeling, but so far the government is bowing to GMO lobbyists to keep them off. GMO pushers know that as people become more educated about what GMO use means, listing them on labels will likely have a negative effect on the sales of products that contain them.
How Do I Avoid GMOs?
For now, it is up to the consumer to research GMOs and where they hide, decline to buy products from companies that use them and instead spend food dollars at GMO-free restaurants and on products that care about consumer health. If you’re looking to avoid GMOs when grocery shopping, look for aisles or products that are labeled “no GMO” or “GMO-free”. Shopping at organic food stores like Whole Foods Market are your safest bet for products that are not labeled.
If you would like more information about healthy eating, our nutrition specialists, Judy Ulery at Whole Body Health, can help you find ways to eliminate GMOs from your diet.