6 Things You Really Should Know About GMOs Before Your Next Shopping Trip

woman grocery shoppingFor years now, a battle has raged between those who want labels on foods that either are or are made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and large food corporations who say there's absolutely no cause for labels -- or concern. So, what's the truth?


Here, six facts about GMOs to bear in mind while you're trying to shop smarter for you and your family.

1. GMO is a pretty broad term. "A genetically modified organism (GMO) is one whose genetic material has been modified in a way that does not normally occur in order for an advantage to either the producer or the consumer," explains Marci Clow, MS, RDN at Rainbow Light

A GMO can be anything from a plant to a bacteria to an animal. For example, a type of soybean, corn, or cottonseed can be engineered to resist diseases or to ensure that the farmer gets a higher yield of the crop. Also, the USDA recently approved genetically modified apples that don't brown.

2. Animal studies make many experts wary of GMOs. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) says GMO foods may be potentially harmful to humans, pointing to studies done on animals that show ingesting GMOs may lead to smaller birth weights and infertility, allergies, toxic immune responses, problems with insulin regulation, blood sugar imbalances, gastrointestinal symptoms, cancer, antibiotic resistance, superinfections of bacteria, liver and kidney damage, and birth defects.

"We know that GMO grains are actually soaked and grown with Roundup, which is a super harmful pesticide that is linked to cancer," says nutritionist Esther Blum, MS, RD, author of Cavewomen Don't Get Fat. "And there have been studies on pigs and cows [who were eating GMOs]. In those animals, if you open up the stomach, the gut is totally inflamed and compromised. [For some] farmers who were feeding their cows on GMO corn and soy, all the cattle died."

3. Other countries have banned GMOs. The European Union, Australia, Japan, and two dozen other countries have banned GMOs, pointing to the lacking long-term studies and testing of GM foods on humans.

4. To steer clear of GMOs, you'll have to look closely at labels. "GMOs are in many of the processed foods found in our grocery stores -- I've heard upwards of 75 percent -- but they aren't labeled, so steering clear is a big challenge," acknowledges Clow.

That said, buying 100 percent certified organic/USDA organic-labeled products is usually the easiest way to identify and avoid genetically modified ingredients, says holistic physician Gabrielle Francis, ND. "The U.S. and Canadian governments do NOT allow companies to label products '100 percent certified organic' if they contain GMOs."

"Look for the verified seal from The Non-GMO Project," advises Clow. "This program offers a rigorous program for verifying that a product is made according to the best practices for GMO avoidance."

There are several guidelines available which are designed to help consumers find foods without GMOs, such as The Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

5. And don't buy conventional meat. While stocking up for your next BBQ or taco night, remember that feed from GMO crops cannot be fed to livestock that are labeled USDA organic.

6. You may also want to avoid ... processed foods and the following most common GMO foods: nonorganic soy, rice, papaya, tomatoes, zucchini, sugar, aspartame, rapeseed, dairy, potatoes, peas, and corn.


Do you try to avoid GMOs? How do you do it?

Important facts about GMOs

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