Foodfacts.com observes that most food we eat may contain ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Everything from baby formula and food to our dairy and even our meat.
The most common applications of genetic modification and their derivatives are:
o Corn – Present in high fructose corn syrup and glucose/fructose
o Sugar Beets
o Rice – not currently available for human consumption, but trace amounts of one GM long grain variety (LLRICE601) may have entered the food supply in both the USA and Europe.
o Cotton – These seeds are pressed to make cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
o Dairy – Cows injected with GE hormone (rBGH/rBST). Probably feed on GM grains and hay. For over 10 years, rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), also known as rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), has been a staple in the dairy products consumed by Americans. Since these products are not labeled as containing rBGH / rBST, most consumers have no idea that a growth hormone intended to induce dairy cows to be more productive is in much of their milk, cheese, and yoghurt.In cows treated with rBGH, significant health problems often develop, including a 50 percent increase in the risk of lameness (leg and hoof problems), over a 25 percent increase in the frequency of udder infections (mastitis), and serious animal reproductive problems, i.e., infertility, cystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects.
Because rBGH use results in more cases of mastitis, dairy farmers tend to use more antibiotics to combat the infections, the residues of which also may end up in milk and dairy products. These residues can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, further undermining the efficacy of some antibiotics in fighting human infections.
Fish, fowl, or livestock has not been GM approved. Yet, there are plenty of non-organic foods that are produced from animals raised on GM feed such as grains. Look for wild, rather than farmed fish, to avoid fish raised on GM feed, and 100% grass-fed animals.
Milk or soy protein is the basis of most infant formulas. The secret ingredients in these products are often soy or milk from cows injected with rbGH. Many brands also add GMO-derived corn syrup, corn syrup solids, or soy lecithin.
Few fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in the US are genetically modified. Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and sweet corn may be GM.
Recognize fruit and vegetable label numbers:
o 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.
o 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM. However, do not trust that genetically engineered food will have a PLU code identifying it as such, PLU labelling is optional.
o 5-digit number beginning with a 9, is organic.
Many frozen foods are highly processed. Read their labels and stay away from the above mentioned at-risk ingredients, unless they are marked organic or non-GM.
Whenever possible, choose preserves, jams, and jellies with cane sugar, not corn syrup. Most juices are made from GMO-free fruit. The only commercialized GM fruit is papaya from Hawaii. Unfortunately, corn-based sweeteners, e.g. high fructose corn syrup in juices and many sodas is cause for concern.
The sweetener aspartame is derived from GM microorganisms and is found in over 6,000 products, including soft drinks, gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops.
Shop locally. Although more than half of all GM foods are produced in the US, most of it comes from large, industrial farms. By shopping at farmers’ markets, signing up for a subscription from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or patronizing a local co-op, you may be able to avoid GM products and possibly save money at the same time.
More and more small farms are offering grains and meat directly to customers, in addition to vegetables, fruit and herbs. Shopping locally may also give you the opportunity to speak to the farmer and find out how he or she feels about GMOs and whether or not they use them in their own operation.
Buy whole foods. Favor foods that you can cook and prepare yourself, rather than foods that are processed or prepared (e.g. anything that comes in a box or a bag, including fast food).
If you have the land, time, and resources, grow your own food. As long as you make sure you’re not buying GM seeds, and aren’t near any GM plants which could cross-pollinate, you’ll know for sure that the food which comes from your garden is not genetically modified.
From Theodora Filis. Theodora is an Environmental Consultant who has worked with multinational corporations throughout Europe, The American Farm School, IFOAM, The Soil Association, United Nations, The Bishopic of Cyprus and St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Assisi, Italy. Implementation of new policies and procedures dealing organic farming methods and certification. College Instructor, and co-author of “Living and Working in Greece”.