Wednesday, June 8, 2011

avoiding GMO's in your food

what are GMO's?
"GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods." (source)
why is it important to avoid them?
 "In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe." (source)
my intention in this blog is to write about how to avoid them, under the assumption that they are not safe.  studies show that the majority of americans would avoid purchasing a food if they knew it was GMO.  however, if you are not yet convinced that they are a health hazard, i would encourage you to read more here, here, or here (or just google "gmo health risks").

how can you avoid GMO's?

it is important to know which foods are most commonly GMO.  the three most common GMO foods are soy, canola and corn (which is used to make high fructose corn syrup).  from the non-gmo project website, "According to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 90% of canola grown is GMO... As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store."  however, it is very possible to avoid them, it just takes some intentionality, and education.

the first step to take, if you are not very familiar with your food, is to start reading labels and become familiar with what is in them.  another advantage to reading labels is that sometimes companies will specifically state on the label that the ingredients are non-GMO (but this is pretty rare, so don't expect to see it).  with the ingredients listed above, GMO's are so common that you should just assume that the ingredient is GMO unless it specifically states that it is not.

here are some of my thoughts on how we avoid GMO's from these three foods:

soy-  i pretty much avoid soy at all times, whether GMO or not.  i believe that soy is one of those foods that has been falsely marketed as something that is healthy with little science to back that claim up.  in short, soy is full of phytic acid, a compound which blocks the absorption of minerals in the body, such as calcium, magnesium and zinc.  furthermore, soy phytoestrogens are hormone disrupters and have also been linked to thyroid problems.  there are many other issues with soy, which you can read here.  another great resource is the whole soy story.  in short, i believe that soy is best avoided, and when you do, you have no worries about GMO's coming from this source.
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food

canola- another food that i pretty much avoid as a rule of thumb.  canola oil is a pretty recent invention, and has not stood the test of time in my opinion.  furthermore, canola must be highly processed in order to extract the oil, meaning that it can be contaminated with lots of chemicals.  on top of all of that is the fact that it goes rancid pretty quickly, so you can't be very sure whether the oil you have is fresh or not.  the oils/fats that i cook with are pretty much just coconut oil, olive oil, butter and animal fats (such as tallow).  along the same lines as soy, i see no reason to eat canola, and avoiding it is another way to avoid GMO's.

corn- corn is not very nutrient dense, so we eat it from time to time but not very much.  and when we do, it is usually something homemade (which, again, i usually buy organic, which by law cannot contain GMO's or non-GMO labeled corn products).  i do have a love for corn tortilla chips, and when i want to buy some, i always go to trader joe's because not only do they have pretty good prices on tortilla chips, but they also don't allow GMO ingredients in their private label products.  also, i recently switched from buying and using corn starch (which, again, if not labeled non-GMO almost certainly is GMO) to using arrowroot powder, which i have found to be pretty much interchangeable with its uses.  i also avoid any packaged food that contains high fructose corn syrup since this non-real food product isn't good for your health to begin with (whether GMO or not).

more tips for avoiding GMO's

*find stores that refuse to sell GMO's.  i know that trader joe's is one.

*find companies and products that pledge not to use GMO ingredients (bob's red mill is one).   the non GMO project is the only organization that does third party testing to assure against GMO's.  you can look for their logo on products:

*when in doubt, you can email a company to ask them what their stance is on GMO's.  if a company does not specifically source non-GMO ingredients, then their food most probably contains GMO's if it contains corn, soy or canola.  i have found companies to be very good about answering my questions about their products, even when it comes to GMO's (unfortunately, every time i have specifically inquired about GMO's, the answer is usually yes, that they do allow GMO ingredients in their foods.  bummer!  but knowing is better than guessing)

what are your thoughts about GMO's?  do you intentionally avoid them?  if so, what are your tips for staying away from the 80% of food products that contain GMO's?

note: this post has been edited because it mistakenly said that most wheat is GMO.  at this point in time, GMO wheat is not being grown or distributed.

1 comment:

  1. I don't have any research to back this up, but I was advised to avoid soy while nursing my son to avoid any possible effects the phytoestrogens could have on him.