Eating and genetics

I’ve been trying to avoid eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is very hard since the U.S. produces the majority of the world’s GMO foods and (conveniently) does not require labeling.

GMOs are plants and animals with laboratory rejiggered DNA so that they grow faster, larger, contain specific nutrients, stand up better against pests and drought, or last longer on the shelf. There are controversial arguments for why GMOs are beneficial, for example the companies behind them argue we cannot meet the nutrient demands of the exploding global population without them. On the other side are concerns about unintended gene transfer and side effects on human health. For me, the likelihood and seriousness of the harm are both great enough to say no.

If you want to avoid GMOs in your food:

1. Look for food labelled “non-GMO.”

2. Look for “100% organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients.” Foods with any of these labels cannot contain any GMOs. Keep in mind though that “made with organic ingredients” means up to 30% of the ingredients are NOT organic (another issue for another post).

3. If not 1 and 2, avoid the “Big Four” GMO crops:

  • Corn (including corn flour, meal, starch, syrup),
  • Canola (as in oil, also know as rapeseed oil), 
  • Soybeans (including soy flour, lecithin, isolate, isoflavone), and 
  • Cottonseed (oil)
  • Also, increasingly beets (go for sweeteners made from cane sugar, agave, or otherwise marked “organic.”
Speaking of GMOs, here’s an adorable/insidious stop motion tale/Chipotle advertisement/commentary on industrial agriculture that science writer Tom Hayden ponders thoughtfully here
Learn more about the legal battle to restrict and label GMOs at the Center for Food Safety.

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