Lifestyle

These 4 Tips for Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods Could Make Dinner Safer

woman buying groceries
OMG, eaters, if you're been reading up on the genetically modified food wars, you've probably heard about microRNA, tiny bits of ribonucleic acid that can bind themselves to protein in your liver cells and affect your body's uptake of cholesterol from the blood. It's been linked to diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. And it may reveal a way that genetically modified food could influence our health -- for very complex reasons you can read about in The Atlantic.

Does the discovery of microRNA prove that GM food is dangerous? Well, it's complicated -- and it's very controversial. But every time I hear news about genetically modified foods, I think two things: Why are we still not requiring food companies to label GM foods, and how do I find non-GM foods in the meantime?

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For me, as long as there's some doubt out there about the safety of GM food, I just want to make sure I have some CHOICE in the matter. That's something we can all agree on, right? That we should have the freedom to make informed choices about what we eat? If I spend my life avoiding foods that turn out to be harmless, is that really the worst thing in the world? Okay then, here's our game plan.

  1. Buy Organic. For the most part, food that is certified organic by the USDA cannot contain food from genetically modified organisms. Every so often, I hear about some tiny loophole for that rule, but for the most part, it's reliable.
  2. Use the True Food Shoppers Guide. You can download and print this guide or get the mobile app.
  3. Avoid the GM biggies. The top GMO crops in the US are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed. And about 90 percent of our conventional sugar comes from GM beets. So even if you don't buy organic, check food labels for these ingredients. Companies that bother to source non-GMO ingredients will almost always say so on their packaging.
  4. Look for Non-GMO Brands. The Non-GMO Project lists food companies that have committed to avoiding GM ingredients. They also list organizations that do non-GMO certification. Don't just assume something labeled "natural" is non-GMO.

Don't buy the PLU code myth. Supposedly the PLU code -- that's the price look-up number you'll see printed on those little stickers on your fruit -- will tell you if your fruit is GM: The 5-digit code starts with the number 8. But this isn't actually reliable because it's optional. Producers of GM foods usually choose not to use the 8-code because they know people are looking for it.

Do you try to avoid genetically modified foods?

 

Image via iStock.com/Leonardo Patrizi

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