Eight Ways to Make Sure You’re Not Eating Genetically Engineered Food
Only a few months ago, most Americans had never heard of Monsanto, or fully understood the dangers of genetically modified (transgenic) food. With the passage of the Farmer Assurance Provision (“Monsanto Protection Act”), that’s a situation that’s changed: Now we’ve seen 2 million people marching globally to demand transparency and choice in the food they consume.
But why exactly is genetically modified food bad for you, and is it possible to avoid?
To quickly summarize:
– Genetically engineered corn is tampered with to produce its own insecticide, which works by bursting the stomachs of the insects that consume it. Critics of GMO corn have alleged that it is responsible for everything from intestinal leak in humans to cancer and leukemia. Corn products are found in many foods, most prominently as the sweetener high fructose corn syrup. GMO corn is also used as a feed for animals, so if you eat non-organic meat you’re likely consuming the same toxins.
– Genetically engineered soy, as well as canola oil, sugar beets / sugar, alfalfa and others are engineered to be Roundup Ready, meaning that they are meant to be sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide. They therefore contain both new genetic code and have been sprayed with Roundup (which has just been shown to greatly increase breast cancer likelihood).
Awareness of the issues surrounding GMO food, and the decision whether or not to purchase and consume it, is down to the individual. However, as seen above, the proliferation of GMOs in our food supply is not nearly as ubiquitous as one might think: the two major culprits are corn and soy, which are fairly easy to avoid. (Corn really provides no nutritional value anyway, and soy products can be replaced with things like almond milk or other organic options.)
If you’re looking to drop genetically modified food from your diet, there a number of steps you can take to eliminate the culprits. Here’s the basics:
1. Know what foods are most commonly genetically modified.
These foods in particular, unless labeled 100% organic, are often GMOs:
• Corn and corn-derivative products like high-fructose corn syrup. Will carry either Bt proteins or be Roundup Ready engineered.
• Soybeans and soy products (tofu, soy milk). Roundup Ready.
• Canola (usually as canola oil). Roundup Ready.
• Sugar Beets. Roundup Ready.
• Dairy Products. Produced by cows given rBGH and fed on GMO corn, grains or hay.
• Sugar. Often comes from Roundup Ready sugar beets.
• Alfalfa. Roundup Ready.
• Pre-prepared foods containing any of the above ingredients or derivatives.
• Hawaiian Papaya
• Yellow Crookneck Squash
2. Avoid cooking with canola, corn, soy or cottonseed oil.
These are all likely made with GMO crops. Butter may also be from cows raised on GMO feed or given rBGH.
3. If you live in Europe, buy non-GMO.
If you live in the United States, buy 100% Organic.
Foods labeled “organic” in the United States or Canada are not necessarily GMO-free. However, foods labeled specifically “100% Organic” are by law. You are liable to spend considerably more for these foods, an unfortunate economic reality at present, but they should be GMO-free.
4. If you eat beef, buy 100% grass-fed.
Again, this is an issue of finding that 100% label to make sure the cows weren’t exposed to GMO feed at any point in their lives. 100% grass fed beef is expensive, but can often be bought cheaply in bulk directly from family farms over the Internet and stored in a freezer. It also tastes significantly better than factory farmed beef—you won’t want to go back.
5. Learn fruit and vegetable encoding.
Fruit and vegetable stickers carry four-to-five digit numbers. A four-digit number means the item is non-GMO. A five-digit number beginning with an 8 is GMO (though identification of GMO foods is optional). A five-digit number beginning with a 9 means the item is organic.
6. Avoid processed or pre-prepared foods.
As mentioned above, it can be immensely difficult to know what you’re getting, and processed food is bad for you anyway. Buy whole foods instead. Farmer’s markets may be good places to shop, as you can often get non-GMO food there and have conversations with the farmers selling the food on the spot, getting an education on food in the process. Shopping at local co-ops may be another good option.
7. Team up.
Because shopping for non-GMO food is a hard task, requiring extra research, awareness, preparation, travel and money, it may be highly beneficial to develop a group of neighbors or to a join a local co-op to turn it into a team effort, sharing duties and information. Such a group could also easily develop into a communal gardening or crop-planting effort, providing not only healthy food, but a sense of community and mutual aid.
8. Grow your own food—and plant non-GMO seeds.
This can be challenging, as seeds are not labeled as GMO or non-GMO in the United States. However, open pollinating and heirloom seeds are more likely to be non-GMO. Search online for non-GMO seeds—a wide range of options for buying are readily found.