By Alexandra Zissu, Editorial Director
Chances are there’s something coming uninvited to your summer picnic. This time we don’t mean ants. From barbeques to al fresco meals on blankets in the park, some of your basket’s most common invaders are probably genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Nicknamed “frankenfoods,” GMO foods are made by inserting genes from one species or subspecies into another to produce a food nature could never make itself. The goal is crops with helpful new characteristics. But sometimes these traits are potentially hazardous, like plants that make their own pesticides. Other times they inadvertently result in new proteins that have no place on our plates. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t require safety testing for GMOs despite research linking them to allergies, organ toxicity, and more.
Around 90 percent of all corn, soy, and canola grown in the U.S. are GMO varieties, and an estimated 70 percent of all processed foods contain GMOs. Of course there is no way to be sure of this because labeling isn’t required. In the absence of labels, the following strategies will help keep GMOs off your seasonal menu:
1) Know which crops are likely modified. The top 7 are corn, soy, cotton oil, alfalfa animal feed, papaya, canola, and sugar beets. Look at labels and avoid foods with these ingredients or things made from them—that’s everything from corn syrup and conventional meat to potato chips and veggie burgers.
2) Look for “non-GM” or “GMO-free” labels. The government doesn’t require labeling but that doesn’t stop reliable third-party organizations like the Non-GMO Project from certifying foods.
3) Choose whole, fresh foods, not processed items. They’re less likely to be genetically modified and won’t contain added ingredients that increase your exposure to GMO ingredients.
4) Buy meat and foods labeled “100% certified organic” by the USDA National Organic Program. They can’t contain GMOs or be raised on GMO feeds. Be aware that food simply labeled “organic” (as opposed to 100%) can contain up to 30 percent GMOs.
5) Watch the sweet corn. In 2012, GMO varieties hit shelves and farmstands in significant amounts for the first time. Ask your grower or go organic.
Want to learn more about enjoying a delicious food-safe summer? Read our free e-book Easy Steps To Eating Healthy & Safe Foods.