Sunday, December 16, 2012

How to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMO's)

How do you tell if your food has been genetically modified? Would you want to know? Should you care?

Since there are no labeling laws in Canada that require a producer to state whether or not food ingredients are genetically modified, we’re on our own to figure out whether or not there are GMOs in our food. 

GMOs are “genetically modified organisms,” plants or animals with DNA that has been fiddled with too (theoretically) make it better in different ways. Genes from different species are spliced to create combinations that could never occur in nature or through traditional cross breeding.  

My gut tells me that GMO’s are not a good thing for us or the planet.  But it wasn’t until I dug into the issue that I really understood the significance of GMOs being let loose in our food system. 

To begin, there have been no long term studies on the safety of GMOs in food for humans. So no one knows if GMOs are harming us or not and the government doesn’t require long-term test data to approve GMOs.  

According to an analysis of existing research undertaken by Earth Open Source (a non-profit focused on the sustainability and security of the global food system) there are many animal studies that indicate health risks associated with GM food, everything from liver, kidney and pancreas toxicity to immune system problems, fertility issues and extreme allergic reactions. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine recommends that physicians advise patients to avoid genetically modified foods.
Aside from long-term health concerns, does it make sense to put our faith in crops that yield no more than non-GMO crops but are more energy intensive to farm? (According to the Earth Open Source report, organic farming systems use just 63% of the energy required by chemically-based farming systems.)
Do we want our diverse seed banks to be narrowed down to a handful of GMO crops that are more heavily dependent on pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers? 
Fortunately there is a movement afoot to require producers to disclose genetically modified ingredients on labels. Whether it will happen or not remains to be seen. (Remember, GMOs are big business.)

So how do you avoid, or at least reduce your GMO consumption? 

In North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs.

They’re primarily in processed foods so reducing the amount of packaged foods that you eat is a good start. Most processed foods contain corn (ex. high fructose corn syrup) or soy fillers, which are among the most common GMOs. (Other common GMOs are cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa (for animal feed), and zucchini and yellow squash.)

Eating more organic food will also help since food products cannot be certified organic if they contain known GMOs. Buying locally produced food from small farms will also reduce your GMO intake.
Look for the Non-GMO Project verified seal on packaged foods. (Visit for details.) 

There is also a handy non-GMO shopping guide and app that features more than 150 brands that are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project. (

Because proposition 37 didn't pass in California the onus is on the consumer to avoid GMOs.

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