Should I completely eliminate GMO's?

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

Maybe you didn’t think it was an issue until you heard General Mills took them out of their plain Cheerios. Then a closer look tells you that Target has about 80% of its own brand items done this way. What?? Target?!!?

Of course we are talking about GMOs. Those plants whose cells have been genetically modified. For the past two decades GMOs have been part of our food system – mainly in corn, canola, soybean, and cotton. More recently you see more information about the practice and have people being a little pickier when they consider the food they’re putting in their bodies.

The agencies that regulate food in the US (the FDA, USDA, and EPA) all maintain that GMOs are fine and do not require companies to identify if their product contains GMOs. However, it is becoming increasingly common to see foods labelled as non-GMOs, in fact, more than 20,000 products are this way.

Farms that grow non-GMO products have to take considerable measures to not cross-contaminate the crops through their machinery, processing facilities, and even the trucks they move the food through. Due to this extra care, it is likely you will see a higher price tag on these items. This is another reason why the change to non-GMO production can be slow for companies and you must be an informed shopper if reducing GMOs in your family’s diet is a priority.

There are several ways to decrease the number of GMOs in your diet. One is by creating food from scratch, this means makes more sauces, marinades, and dressings with your own ingredients so you can control exactly what is going into your food. This is done in the most recent 2-week meal plan. You can also be on the lookout when shopping for foods. Because GMOs can be tricky to spot we created a quick guide to grocery shopping to limit GMOs.

General Shopping Tips:

Look for non-GMO labels which include:

    • Non-GMO Project Verified
    • USDA Organic (organic means no GMOs)
    • Non-GMO Certified by NSF

Avoid sugar beets, soy, canola, cotton, corn, zucchini, yellow summer squash, alfalfa, and papaya which are the 10 GMO crops.

Heading through the aisles:

Produce: as long as you avoid the items listed above you should be in the clear. This applies to both fresh and frozen produce. Of course, if you buy certified organic then all produce gets the green light.

Meat. Milk, Cheese, Yogurt: while animals in the US have not been genetically modified, they could be fed GMO feed so you want to look for organic or non-GMO labelled items. When it comes to seafood, there are no USDA organic standards and a very limited amount of non-GMO labelled options. However, wild-caught seafood tends to not contain GMOs (again, coming from the food they are fed, not from the animal itself).

Prepared and Packaged Foods: When you avoid corn and soy you are eliminating most GMO foods in the aisles. Foods that are whole grain, beans, nuts, and seeds are great choices, in addition to the non-GMO labelled items. When looking at breads, crackers, or snacks you want to make sure there are no canola, soy, corn, or dairy ingredients.

The good news is you don’t have to head to a specialty store, in fact, most large grocery stores will carry several non-GMO items to fill your shopping cart.

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