Currently, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products).According to industry, up to 95% of sugar beets are now GE. It has been estimated that upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.
A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment.
Human health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.
As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.
Putting a rumor to rest about PLU codes
The 4-digit PLU codes on the sometimes-pain-in-the-neck labels glued to apples, for example, tell the checkout lady which is a small Fuji (4129) and which is a Honeycrisp (3283). She’ll know what to charge you and the inventory elves will know what’s what. If there’s a 5-digit code starting with 9, then it’s organic.
These numbers, organized by the Produce Marketing Association, have nothing to do with you. According to Kathy Means, Association Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs, this is an optional convention for retailers and their supplier and is not designed as a communication tool for customers. If you want to know which items are organic, look for the word Organic; and stop squinting at tiny codes.
The National Organic Program (NOP) Guidelines for Organic Products
100% Organic - A product labeled as “100% organic” must contain ONLY organically produced ingredients and processing aids (except water and salt). These are usually single ingredient items such as fruit, vegetable, meat, milk and cheese products.
Organic - A product labeled as “organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt).
Made with Organic Ingredients - This labeling applies to processed products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups can be listed. These products can not be produced using excluded methods. The USDA Organic seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.
“100% organic” and “organic” products - these display the USDA Organic seal on the package. These products cannot be produced using excluded methods such as sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.
Processed Products with less than 70% Organic Ingredients - These products cannot use the term “organic” anywhere on the principal display panel. They may list specific organic ingredients on the information panel. The USDA Organic seal cannot be used anywhere of the package.
If a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic seal is voluntary.
Even if it’s “organic”, remember, it can still contain up to 5% of non-organic or GMO ingredients, even if you see a PLU code of 9 on your organic product!
How To Not Ingest Genetically Modified Products
- Don’t drink milk or consume dairy products from cows who have been injected with rBGH, which is genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone. Unfortunately, no U.S. states require labeling of GMO’s or rBGH, but you can eliminate the chance of consuming them if they have the words Certified Organic on them.
- If you choose to eat meat, choose grass-fed varieties.
- Don’t use genetically modified food additives such as Aspartame and “natural” flavorings, which are forms of GM products that literally line the shelves of most commercial grocery stores.
Names of Ingredients Having a Very High Chance of Being Genetically Modified
As the U.S. does NOT require labeling of Genetically Modified Foods, consider the following ingredients on food labels to be Genetically Modified unless the ingredient is Certified Organic or labeled NON-GMO:
- Vegetable Oils: soy, corn, cottonseed, canola
- Soy Flour, Soy Protein, Soy Lecithin
- Textured Vegetable Protein
- Cornmeal, Corn Syrup
- Citric Acid
- Lactic Acid
To make it much easier to spot foods and products that are genetically modified, True Food Now has come up with some great apps. Download the NEW True Food Shopper’s Guide to avoiding GE foods, updated for 2011, or get the True Food Shoppers Guide mobile application for iPhone and Android.
Stop shopping in the dark and download your new pocket shoppers’ guide today!
Get it for free on iTunes (for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) or Android Market by searching for “True Food.”
Sources for this article: