GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, popped up on the scene in the late 80s. Scientists began tinkering with the idea that they could modify the DNA of certain crops to produce higher yielding, better tasting and more nutritious produce. Sounds admirable, right?
In 1994 the first of the first mass-produced genetically modified crop hit supermarket shelves. The “Flavr Savr” tomato was destined for glory, promising to retain its ripeness and avoid the age-associated squishiness of its natural cousins. The Flavr Savr was a flop, however, but scientists wouldn’t be so quick throw in the towel. They diligently returned to the drawing board to perfect their designs.
Today, billions of genetically modified crops are grown around the world with two-thirds of them being grown right here in America. US-based manufacturer Monsanto is responsible for more than 90 percent of worldwide GMO crop-production. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has slowly infiltrated the vast majority of food we eat in America. Yet, up until just recently, you probably mindlessly munched away without a thought to GMOs and the dangers they pose.
How could you no know, you ask? Well that’s because there hasn’t been any standardized practice of GMO labeling, as Off the Grid News has reported. Though with the recent public outrage, more companies are offering to voluntary label products. But just what are the dangers of these genetically modified crops? If they add nutrients, don’t spoil and are an all-around better product, what threat could they possibly pose? Well, that’s just it. We don’t know because the FDA does not test these products for safety, leaving it up to manufacturers to perform their own tests on genetically modified seeds.
Corn, cotton and candles, too
While at this point you are probably aware that corn and soy are among the top GMO crops produced, you may assume that by avoiding tofu and popcorn you will be good to go. You couldn’t be more wrong. GMOs are everywhere, even where you least expect them. Did you feed your dog today? Well, chances are Fido’s food contained some GMO ingredients. Are you wearing a cotton shirt or did you dry yourself with a cotton towel after your morning shower? Then you’ve no doubt exposed yourself to GMOs unknowingly since 94 percent of US cotton is genetically modified.
The fact is that millions of products we eat, drink and wear every day are derived from GMO crops without us even realizing it. One heavily produced genetically modified crop the US is responsible for that many aren’t aware of is the papaya. Seventy-five percent of all papaya crops in Hawaii are genetically modified. Think this doesn’t affect you? Consider those dried fruit bits in your trail mix or granola bar. Yep, they probably contain genetically modified papaya.
Sugar beets are another heavily produced GMO crop. In fact, 90 percent of the sugar beets grown in America are genetically modified and more than half of our sugar supply is derived from sugar beets. As you probably well know, added sugar is in practically everything these days including most “low-fat” foods, cereal, packaged goods and even some brands of whole wheat bread. Even if you are avoiding the genetically modified corn-based high fructose corn syrup and opting for “real sugar” instead, there’s a greater than 50 percent chance you’re still getting a genetically modified impostor.
Consider some of your favorite sauces, soups, dressings and almost every pre-packaged frozen or canned meal on the market. Read the ingredient list and you’re likely to come across xanthum gum. This popular thickening agent is used in everything from yogurts to ice cream to dips and spreads. In fact, most low-fat products utilize xanthum gum to add texture and viscosity that the natural fat would have provided. Can you guess where xanthum gum comes from? It’s derived from corn. And since 88 percent of US corn is genetically modified, there’s a pretty good chance you are getting a healthy dose of GMOs daily.
Suffice it to say that unless a product specifically says on the label that it’s “non-GMO” you can pretty much assume some of the ingredients have been tampered with. But what about less obvious products? Take a look at your scented candles. If they are soy-based, then chances are you are filling your home with a hefty dose of genetically modified aroma therapy.
Your bathroom is another place where GMO products lurk. Many cosmetic and skin-care products utilize soy or corn byproducts as either main ingredients or fillers. So with every swipe of mascara or dollop of moisturizer, you could be directly applying genetically modified materials to your skin.
But there is help
But before you become overwhelmed with the onslaught of encroaching GMO products on the market, there are some helpful tips you can use to avoid these engineered products.
Here are 5 tips:
- Try to avoid products containing the major GMO crops and their derivatives including, corn, soy, canola oil and cottonseed. Remember, the fewer ingredients on the label, the better.
- Look for the “Non-GMO” stamp on the package. More and more companies are voluntarily labeling their products.
- Opt for organic products, as these are free form genetically modified ingredients — but be sure to choose “100 percent organic” since other terms such as “Made With Organic Ingredients” means only up to 70 percent of the product is organic and may still contain genetically modified additives.
- Be selective where you eat and shop. More and more retailers are banning the use of GMOs. The popular chain restaurant Chipotle bans the use of any genetically modified ingredients in any of their dishes, and stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have agreed not to sell genetically modified salmon once it becomes available to the public. Try to find restaurants and retailers in your area who have made a stand against GMOs.
- Do some research. There are plenty of helpful sites online that educate consumers on just which of their favorite products contain genetically modified ingredients. Shift Frequency lists hundreds of foods by brand and category that include GMOs while the NonGMO Project lists all of the verified non-GMO products on the market in an-easy-to-search catalog. The Non-GMO Shopping Guide offers an app you can download straight to your phone that includes pocket guides you can take with you to the store or restaurant.
The bottom line is that GMOs are hard to avoid, but with a little effort you can make some smarter decisions about your purchases and stay clear of these dangerous ingredients.