After reading the article on genetically modified foods that I posted a link to the other day, I started reading up on how to avoid GM foods. As it turns out, the answer is both simple and complex.
On the one hand, four crops make up the large majority of GM crops currently on the market (many more have been in development for some time, but for various reasons are unmarketable). Those four and the percentage of their total US production that is genetically modified are: soy (89%), corn (61%), canola (80%) [this figure is for Canadian production as that is where most US canola originates], cotton (83%). Now, organic certification in the US forbids genetic modification at any level of production. So, avoiding soy, corn, canola, and cotton, or buying them only in organic form should pretty well cover the bases, right?
Wrong. Far from it.
If you eat, or drink, animal products (including farm raised fish), unless they are certified organic they almost certainly are fed GM crops. Look for “organic,” “wild caught fish,” or “100% grass-fed.” In dairy, look for items marked “no rbGH or rbST.” Also be aware that honeybees may have collected from GM plants, so the honey or bee pollen may contain GM dna. Watching for these things seems manageable, right? Sure!
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. The Nov-Dec 2003 issue of FDA Consumer magazine (yes, that FDA) states “The Grocery Manufacturers of America estimates that between 70 percent and 75 percent of all processed foods available in U.S. grocery stores may contain ingredients from genetically engineered plants.” We’re not just talking about hot dogs and deli meat. Think bread, cereal, crackers, cookies, frozen dinners, cooking oil, salad dressing, tofu, anything with corn syrup, things containing aspartame, the list goes on.
So how can you know for sure? You can’t. Not really. As consumers, we need to push for legislation mandating the labeling of GM foods. Yesterday, I emailed my congressional representatives to voice my concern. Today I received a reply from Senator Barbara Mikulski. In short, she said that the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act was not considered by the Senate before the 110th Congress adjourned, but that hearing from the public was “helpful” should the legislation be reintroduced when the 111th Congress convenes. I encourage you to contact your own representatives.
Also, please do your own research on this topic. There is much to know, far more than I can relate here. GM foods have caused serious allergic reactions in people who show no reaction to non-modified forms of the same food. And while four crops represent most of the GM crops on the market, they are not the only ones approved in the US. Some of the others might surprise you! Educate yourself about the advertised benefits of GM foods versus the real score. Learn how GM foods put us at risk of "superbugs" which don't respond to antibiotics. And, of course, plant a garden and grow your own food! (Then post about it on your blog so the rest of us can enjoy your journey too!)
A couple of links to get you started are here and here. But there are many more sources available...
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