Avoiding GMOs (October 21, 2014)
As a doctor (I like to remind people of that frequently), I have a certain responsibility, both moral AND legal, to see that any health-related opinion that I publicly espouse is well-grounded in fact. Therefore this is NOT meant to be an article on the possible health risks of GMOs. Because although I think I know enough to make decisions regarding my own health, I do not know enough to give advice to others on the subject. This little writeup is simply to assist those of us who are looking for foods that do not contain GMOs.
[For the information of anyone who has been born very recently, GMO means “genetically modified organism” and when the term is used regarding foods, it refers to mostly plants (plants are much easier to manipulate genetically than animals) that have had their genetic makeup altered in the laboratory to give them traits not found in them in nature.]
Well over 50% of the soy, corn and canola that is currently being produced here is GM. So GM food is everywhere (in approximately 70% of the items sold in the supermarket by most estimates) and is used in pretty much everything. It is not easy to avoid if you want to do so, and there are many who DO want to -- enough so that characterizing foods as “non-GMO” has become quite the thing for food manufacturers these days.
So, one would think that you could just look on food labels for “non-GMO” the way you can for “gluten free”. Certainly if a food manufacturer has gone to the trouble of turning out a non-GM food to appeal to that market niche, s/he will label it as such? Well yes, except for two things.
1) The people who actually produce GM foods, and/or the seeds for such, are pulling out all the legislative stops to PREVENT this kind of labeling of food. In some places they are even trying to make it illegal to label as a food as non-GM. Enough corporate money is going into this effort that some states which were planning on instituting mandatory labeling of GM foods have backed down like the gutless weenies they are. (The federal government, of course, is nowhere to be seen on this subject.) This has put non-GM food manufacturers in quite a bind. They need to be able to identify their foods as non-GM and also not have to fuss over different packaging for different states.
2) Because it is so easy to pass GM food off as non-GM, it really needs to be certified as such by someone besides the food manufacturer (the same way that "organic" is). Thus have come into being organizations that will do just that, and if you see their little symbols on a food package certifying it as containing no GMOs, you’re home free. Good solution -- except that it costs money to pay for that, and non-GM food is already more costly than GM. What’s a poor food manufacturer to do?
Well, some food manufacturers have let it be known that their foods are non-GM. They won’t pay to have it certified as such by a third party or sometimes even specifically label their foods as such, but they PROMISE you that their food Really and Truly is non-GM. The response of many people to this assertion is “yeah, ok”. Such a cynical age we live in.
But Ralph Nader has come to the rescue! Consumer Reports recently tested over 80 processed foods containing corn and/or soy for GM or non-GM content. From this sampling, they drew a few general rules for processed foods. You look at the label, and:
1) If the manufacturer is delicately avoiding the subject of GM or non-GM, or is just claiming that the product in question is “natural” (which may be the most meaningless adjective used on food labels today), you can safely bet that it contains GMOs.
2) If it’s third-party verified (more specifically, Non-GMO Project Verified), it is reliably non-GM.
3) Products that have third-party certification as "organic" reliably do not contain GMOs.
4) And those food manufacturers who claim foods sold under their labels are non-GM but aren’t paying for third party verification? At this moment in time, THEY CAN BE TRUSTED! Who woulda thunk it. Not me, that's for sure. Those items were as non-GM as the products that were third-party verified. They found only one exception to that, Xochitl Totopos de Maiz original corn chips. Shame on you, Xochitl.
Consumer Reports did not list the food manufacturers In this last category, but they did list the food items that they tested, and I will give the brand names here: Kind, Clif, Bob’s Red Mill, Boca, Primal, and Tofutti. Good for you, guys. (Trader Joe’s asserts food sold under their store label is non-GM, but sadly none of their non-organic items were tested.)
To repeat, I am not telling you to avoid non-GM foods. But if you want to do so, this information should help.
--dr. diane holmes
Copyright © 2014