Last week, I posted this Refreshing Corn Salad with Lime Dressing. It prompted me to write about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). If you do not know about GMOs, I encourage you to go back and read that post first before diving into this week’s post about how to avoid GMOs (should you wish to do so).
Where Do You Find GMOs?
Just to quickly recap: GMO crops are largely used for cotton, soy, corn, and sugar beets. This means that any products that are derived from these crops will likely contain GMO crops. This is, of course, unless you live in a country where GMO crops are banned. Think about corn syrup, cornstarch, soybean oil, canola oil, and of course, granulated sugar. You likely have a product that may contain some form of GMO(s).
How to Avoid GMOs
So, how can you avoid GMOs (should you wish to do so)? There are a few tips you can follow. I would like to warn you though, that the food industry – globally, and as a whole – does not make it entirely easy or transparent to spot GMOs.
Check Your Labels
64 countries around the world require GMOs to be labeled on the product. In Canada, it currently does not need to be labeled. In 2018, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard”. This standard needed to be implemented by all food manufacturers on 1 January 2022. So, since the beginning of this year, the U.S. requires food labeling for GMOs.
How these products are labeled is a State decision and not an overall country one. So, your products and food labelings in the U.S. may look different from State to State (albeit there appears to be a general one in use with the regulation that kicked in). Generally speakin, genetically engineered (or bioengineered – watch out for either of those labels) foods should indicate so either close to the nutritional information and/or ingredients list. This is likely where the consumer will look anyways. The information should be easily recognized. If you do not see the label it should not contain GMOs. You can find a picture of how this label looks in this post here.
On the other side, the Non-GMO label also tells you that food does not contain GMOs. Non-GMO means that a product has been manufactured or grown agriculturally in a “standardized” way. This means that it can still contain herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics. However, no GMO crop was used.
Become Familiar with The List of Bioengineered Foods
The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has pulled together a list of bioengineered foods or crops that are available throughout the world and are then used in various products. Regulated entities must maintain records for these types of foods. You can find the full list here.
I have to admit that I was a bit shocked to find papaya, eggplant, apples, pineapples, potatoes, and summer squash on this list as well. It is worth a read and includes where the foods are grown.
The easiest way to avoid GMOs (but I appreciate that it is also the most expensive and not accessible to everyone) is to choose certified organic. Organic crops cannot be grown with genetically modified materials and hence choosing organic is your easiest and best option. When choosing organic, the products are also free from antibiotics, herbicides, and toxic chemicals.
What To Take Away From This Post
As always, the food industry does not necessarily make our job easier. However, commencing this year it has certainly become more transparent than ever before (at least for the U.S). One of the things that shocked me the most during my research is that most GMO crops are used for animal feeding. And whether you are in a country that bans GMOs or not (for example, I am in Germany and technically it is banned all over the European Union), this does not stop animals from being fed with GMO crops.
Therefore, it is also important to look where your meat and dairy products are coming from. Products that are derived from animals being fed with GMO crops (e.g. milk, yogurt, cheese, or the meat itself) do not need to be labeled currently. So, if you would like to avoid GMOs altogether your best option would be to buy organic for those types of products.
I hope this post and the previous one on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) I hope it has helped you understand this topic better and how to navigate the food labeling world, should you wish to avoid GMOs. Beautiful cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.