Guest post by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD, originally published at HuffingtonPost.com
Despite the fact that over 90 percent of people want genetically modified organisms (GMOs) labeled, we still don't have that right in the U.S.—yet. But we are not powerless. Awareness about GMOs is growing steadily. And I believe it is the "small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk" that can make a big difference. If our elected officials will not do our bidding, then we can take our power back right now by not buying or eating any genetically modified foods. Need some motivation to cut them out of your diet? Here are some sobering facts.
1. We eat on average 193 pounds of genetically modified foods in a year, at minimum. Yes you read that right—193 pounds!
2. There are no long-term safety studies in humans. Thus, the long-term health effects are unknown.
3. Genetically modified crops use more pesticides. Their use has increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011. And stronger herbicides are needed to counter weed resistance, including 2,4-D, which is one of the chemicals found in Agent Orange! This is bad for the environment and can't be good for us.
4. Chemical companies that create GMO seeds—such as Monsanto—patent them so farmers have to buy new seeds each year. I just don't think it's right to patent seeds, GMO or otherwise. And think about it, do you really want chemical companies to control our food supply?
It is for these reasons that I avoid genetically modified foods. I hope you consider removing them from your diet as well. Let's use the power we do have—our dollars—and avoid GMOs now.
The current crops that are genetically modified are soy, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton, Hawaiian papaya some zucchini and yellow crookneck squash and alfalfa (which is fed to cattle and not us). Here are some tips to cut GMOs out of your diet.
- Buy USDA Organic, especially when purchasing the current GMO crops. Organic foods are grown from seeds that are not genetically modified.
- Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. For more information about the Non-GMO Project, see here.
- Buy brands that are sourced to be free of GMOs such as Trader Joe's labeled foods or Whole Foods Market's 365 Daily Value labeled foods. If you eat a lot of processed foods, such as canned and packaged products, choose these brands or an organic brand. Better yet, eat more whole foods, which are less likely to contain GMOs.
- Since most corn and soy are GMO, choose organic or a brand that sources their items to be free of GMOs when you eat these foods. This includes sweet corn, corn tortillas, corn oil, corn chips, tofu, edamame, soy milk, and baby formula.
- Instead of canola, corn, soy, or cottonseed, choose extra virgin olive oil, organic canola oil (cold pressed), or safflower oil.
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are another source of GMOs. Cane sugar is not genetically engineered, so when you do have sugar, choose cane. However, processed sugar is not good for us anyway; therefore, it would be best to cut it out as much as you can.
- Most Hawaiian papaya and some yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, and are all genetically modified. Buy these foods organic. You can also try your local farmer's market. All Trader Joe's produce is sourced to be free of GMOs, so you can also buy these veggies there if you have a store nearby. You will notice that Trader Joe's sells Caribbean papaya and not Hawaiian, which is one of the ways they avoid selling GMOs.
Do you eat out a lot?
- Ask the manager at restaurants you frequent if their menu items contain GMO ingredients. This will help increase awareness and perhaps move them in the direction of removing GMOs from their menu.
- If the manager doesn't know, ask if organic foods are used. If organic products are not used, avoid tofu, veggie burgers made with soy, corn, corn tortillas, corn chips, edamame, and other foods from corn and soy. Also avoid sugar, sweets, and desserts.
- Ask what kind of oil they use. If it is soy, canola, corn, or cottonseed, they are most likely GMO.
- Salads can be a safe option, but ask for cruets with olive oil and vinegar instead of other salad dressings.
- The great news is that some restaurants have made the effort to avoid GMOs in the Los Angeles area, such as Real Food Daily, Hugo's, and Café Gratitude.
What else can you do?
Tell restaurants, fast food chains, and grocery stores, you want products without GMOs. They will respond to customer demand, as they have done in the past. Remember what happened when we found out there was "pink slime" in our hamburgers?
Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD
Carole is a registered dietitian with a master\’s degree in exercise physiology. She has worked in the field of diet and health for over 20 years.