Chuck, I appreciated the health insights and warnings in your last C-Force article about genetically modified foods that are flooding America’s local grocers. So tell me, what do you think are the best ways to avoid GMOs when they aren’t even labeled on food ingredients? – Curious in Connecticut
First, contact your governmental officials, and ask them to endorse or support legislation that requires food companies to start listing whether their products use GMOs.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pew Center, Consumers Union and Harris Interactive polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans would like to see genetically modified foods better regulated and labeled.
At least 14 states have introduced legislation on genetically modified ingredient labeling, but most face government gridlock. So take action, and keep foods safe (non-genetically engineered) by contacting your state and federal representatives – as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and tell them to legislate that genetically modified ingredients be labeled on every package.
Ask your federal representatives to support the new federal labeling bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, which would require the food industry to label all genetically engineered foods and ingredients. In addition, tell your representatives that corn and cotton must not be deregulated, because without strict controls, genetically engineered crops will encroach on non-genetically engineered crops, contaminating them and rendering the organic crops as non-organic.
Right now, there is a war of words and concepts between pro-GMO food marketers and anti-GMO advocates like me. But the fact is that there’s a clear line between the truths and myths of GMOs.
The report, “GMO Myths and Truths” (available for free download at EarthOpenSource.org), demonstrates the “range of far-reaching claims from the GM crop industry and its supporters,” such as:
- GMOs “are an extension of natural breeding and do not pose different risks from naturally bred crops.”
- They “are safe to eat and can be more nutritious than naturally bred crops.”
- They “are strictly regulated for safety.”
- They “reduce pesticide use.”
- They “benefit the environment.”
On the contrary, the report shows how the majority of scientific and nutrition evidence discredits pro-GMO claims and instead reveals:
- GMO crops “are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GM crops.”
- They “can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts.”
- They “are not adequately regulated to ensure safety.”
- They “do not reduce pesticide use, but increase it.”
- They “create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant ‘superweeds,’ compromised soil quality and increased disease susceptibility in crops.”
- They “harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems and reduce biodiversity.”
The report concludes, “Conventional plant breeding, in some cases helped by safe modern technologies like gene mapping and marker assisted selection, continues to outperform GM in producing high-yield, drought-tolerant, and pest- and disease-resistant crops that can meet our present and future food needs.”
The biggest question is: How can we best avoid GM ingredients in our food and elsewhere?
Here are seven of the best ways that I’ve discovered from GMO and nutrition specialists and resources:
- Educate yourself and your loved ones about GMOs from credible articles, books or videos, such as those mentioned on the websites below or YouTube’s “Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) – Myths and Truths.”
- Keep up-to-date about anti-GMO trends, legislation and action items by frequenting websites like The Center for Food Safety, another great GMO watchdog organization.
- Download the Non-GMO shopping guides or smart phone applications at NonGMOShoppingGuide.com or NonGMOproject.org to help you locate and avoid genetically engineered ingredients wherever you shop.
- Buy certified organic and local. USDA Organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified products cannot intentionally include GMO ingredients. The “Non-GMO Project Verified” label is the only third-party non-GMO verification program in North America. As its website (NonGMOproject.org) explains, “Since its incorporation in 2007, the Project has grown into a collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, processors , distributors, farmers, seed companies and consumers.”
- Avoid at-risk ingredients that are now largely (roughly 90 percent) produced using GMOs, including soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn and sugar from sugar beets. Unless sugar is labeled as organic or pure cane, it likely contains sugar from genetically modified sugar beets.The Los Angeles Times reported, “These crops (mentioned above) often are added to processed foods as oils, sweeteners and soy proteins, but also can be part of amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, vitamin C, citric acid, sodium citrate, ethanol, flavorings (natural and artificial), hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, maltodextrins, microbial growth media, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein, xantham gum, vitamins and yeast products, according to the Non-GMO Project.”
Regarding most fruits and vegetables, the Non-GMO Shopping Guide further explains: “Very few fresh fruits and vegetables for sale in the U.S. are genetically modified. Novel products such as seedless watermelons are NOT genetically modified. Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash and sweet corn may be GM. The only commercialized GM fruit is papaya from Hawaii – about half of Hawaii’s papayas are GM. Even if the fruit or vegetable is non-GMO, if it is packaged, frozen or canned, there may be GM additives.”
- Buy only dairy products labeled certified organic, “No rBGH or rBST” or “artificial hormone-free,” because their source cows may have been fed genetically modified feed or injected with genetically modified bovine growth hormone.
- Support and patronize grocers (and commend their management) that offer lines of organic products and rid GMO ingredients from their product shelves. For example, Target, H-E-B, Giant Eagle and Meijer recently joined over 55 other food retailers, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Aldi, Marsh and Hy-Vee, in agreeing not to sell genetically engineered fish in their stores. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s claim that all their store-brand items originate from non-GMO ingredients.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorisNews.blogspot.com.