Some of you may not be familiar with the terms GMO or genetically engineered. Yet we unwittingly consume them on a regular basis. Recent research shows they can have negative consequences on our health.
October has been designated Non-GMO Month by the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit group committed to preserving and building resources for non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices.
GMO, genetically modified or genetically engineered refers to food ingredients / food crops that have either had their DNA genetically altered and are produced often at large agri-business farms or those at risk of having been contaminated and/or the crops in commercial production where cross-pollination and consequently contamination) is possible.
Incorporated in 2007, the Non-GMO Project is a collaboration of manufacturers, retailers, processors, distributors, farmers, seed companies and consumers. The retailers who started the Non-GMO Project believe consumers in North America should have access to clearly-labeled, non-GMO food and products, an issue that will be put to California voters this November.
The overabundance of genetically modified food crops and ingredients is alarming. According to the Project, in North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs. They’re particularly abundant in children’s foods such as cereals, snack bars, snack boxes, cookies, processed lunch meats, and crackers.
The most common GMOs are:
- soy (approximately 94% of U.S. crop in 2011),
- cotton (approximately 90% of U.S. crop),
- canola (approximately 90% of U.S. crop),
- corn (approximately 88% of U.S. crop),
- sugar beets (approximately 95% of U.S. crop in 2010),
- Most of the Hawaiian papaya crop (approximately 988 acres),
- alfalfa (first planted in 2011),
- and squash (especially zucchini and yellow squash, (approximately 25,000 acres).
Also at risk due to possible contamination in feed are animal products such as milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc..
Many GMO’s are added ingredients in a large number of the foods we eat. They may be hidden in common processed food ingredients such as: amino acids, aspartame, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, Vitamin C, citric acid, “natural” and “artificial” flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lactic acid, molasses, monosodium glutamate, sucrose, textured vegetable protein (TVP), vitamins and yeast products.
But there is a way for consumers to educate themselves about which foods may or may not contain GMO’s.
The Non-GMO Project maintains North America’s only independent verification list of products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance. The standards by which products are verified are comprehensive and the list is updated every two years. Consumers can discover which food products have been verified by searching the Project’s ever expanding list on their website. If the product you’re specifically looking for isn’t on the list, you fill out an online request to have it verified. The Non-GMO Project contacts companies with these product verification requests on a regular basis.
There are several ways to learn more about scientific-based information about genetically-engineered foods. You can download the document “GMO Myths and Truths”. Or check the potential for harm from GMOs at bit.ly/MktNKh .
The Project’s website also has information as participating retail stores, such as Orchard Nutrition Center, which joined the Non-GMO project.
“We believe in organic products,” said Orchard’s Vicki Leide.
“We want to provide the best food options available and educate people so they can make the best choices for themselves,” she said. “The more people are educated,” said Leide, “the more they’ll look into these things.”