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Thursday, February 17, 2011

How to avoid genetically modified foods

I've been hearing about genetically modified foods for a while but until this week I had not really looked into what it meant for us. I had a chance to watch The Future of Food(on Hulu) while my hubby did our taxes(meaning I had some time on my hands!) and it was one of those moments where I am so astonished about what I am hearing that it haunts me for days.
A couple of the things I took away from the documentary:

*We dont know how GMOs are affecting the population because foods containing GMOs are not required to be labled. This means health providers cannot track allergic or other reactions to these food items.
*While GMOs claim to be a problem solver for world hunger because their crops can produce higher yields, what they don't say is that their seeds have been patented. A living organism that cannot be controlled once released into the environment that is 'owned' by a company(like Monsanto). This means that any cross pollination with a crop of non GMO seeds is now owned by Monsanto. Farmers are being bullied into using Monsantos seeds(and the herbicides and pesticides they are manufactured to be used with) or face very large fines and litigation.
*The way these foods are modified is to insert both a virus and an antibiotic marker into a DNA sequence.

The foods that are genetically modified are required to be labeled so in the UK. While that is not the case in the US, there are ways you can avoid GMO's.

From a WikiHow article, here are some major foods that contain GMOs commonly found in the US:
  • Soybeans - Gene taken from bacteria (Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4) and inserted into soybeans to make them more resistant to herbicides.[1] See How to Live With a Soy Allergy for more information on avoiding soy products
  • Corn - There are two main varieties of GE corn. One has a Gene from the lepidoptera pathogen microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis inserted to produce the Bt toxin, which poisons insect pests.[2] There are also several events which are resistant to various herbicide. Present in high fructose corn syrup and glucose/fructose which is prevalent in a wide variety of foods in America.
  • Rapeseed/Canola - Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to herbicide.
  • Sugar beets - Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
  • Rice - Genetically modified to resist herbicides; not currently available for human consumption, but trace amounts of one GM long-grained variety (LLRICE601) may have entered the food supply in the USA and Europe.[3]More recently, golden rice, a different strain of rice has been engineered to produce significantly higher levels of beta carotene, which the body uses to produce vitamin A. Golden rice is still undergoing testing to determine if it is safe for human consumption.[4]
  • Cotton - engineered to produce Bt toxin. The seeds are pressed into cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
  • Dairy - Cows injected with GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
  • Aspartame/AminoSweet - Addictive and dangerous artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum and "diet" beverages. A building block of aspartame, the amino acid phenylalanine, is usually manufactured with the aid of genetically modified E. coli bacteria. This process has been used industrially in the USA for many years.
  • Papayas
  • Farm Raised Salmon"
Some ways to avoid GMOs are to:
Buy Organic

Learn about PUL labels on fruit. Those little numbers that grocery stores use give great clues into where your food came from.
  • If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.
  • If it is a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM. However, do not trust that GE foods will have a PLU identifying it as such, because PLU labeling is optional.
  • If it is a 5-digit number beginning with a 9, it is
Buy Grass Fed Beef. Did you know you can buy an entire cow? Or half a cow? Select ranchers will offer special prices on an entire cow and make whatever cuts you prefer. Now, storage is an issue but you save so much money in the long run and you can guarantee that the beef you are eating is grass fed and healthy. My brother and sister in law did this for their large family and could not say enough great things about it.

Buy local, whole foods. Food Co-ops are a great way to support your local farmers and ensure that the food you are eating is organic and responsibly farmed. My local co-op charges a one time membership fee and does much of their work online. Sunday night they post their available food, you 'shop' online, place your order and you can either pick the food up or have them deliver it to you. The food is always fresh and in season and a great way to feed in season food to your family!

Michael Pollan , author of great books like "Food Rules"  wrote that if you great great grandmother would not recognize what you are eating as food then don't eat it! That has stuck with me for a long time and has helped us make better food choices. Now, we still have a LONG way to go in our family but after watching The Future of Food I will change the way my family eats in 2011. This will be OUR year to change the way we eat! Will it be yours too?


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