If eating healthier is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you might be interested in ways to avoid GMO’s or genetically modified organisms. These foods have been altered on the gene level. For example, a GMO could be corn that’s been genetically modified to include a pesticide. You read that right.
In the US, labeling food as a GMO isn’t legally required, but here are a few ways that you can avoid them:
1. Watch for Non-GMO or GMO-free labeling. Although not legally required, some farms and distributors label food accordingly.
2. Watch for labels from QAI (Quality Assurance International), Oregon Tilth and CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). These non-profit organizations, accredited by the US Department of Agriculture, verify that products sold as organic meet strictly defined organic standards.
3. Know what food is likely to be a GMO. A 2010 study found that 90% of soybeans and sugar beets and 84% of corn in the US were genetically modified. The most common culprit remains corn syrup. When you start reading labels, you’ll be amazed at how often you find it in sodas, convenience foods like jars of spaghetti sauce and soup, ketchup, chips, non-dairy whipped topping and a host of others. Baked goods, sugar, mixes and dairy products may also contain genetically modified ingredients.
4. Eat what’s labeled as 100% organic. If it’s labeled as 100% organic, it contains no GMO’s. Watch out for misleading labeling for eggs like “free range” or “natural” or “cage-free”. None of these labels mean Genetic Engineering-Free.
5. Shop locally. The large industrial farms are more likely to grow genetically modified crops than your smaller farms. When you shop your local farmer’s market, you have the opportunity to talk to the farmers, find out their approach to growing crops, and let them know how you like to buy products that are free from GMO’s.
6. Look for 100% grass-fed beef. Most of the cows in the US are grass-fed for most of their lives, but many times, cows are fed GM corn in feed lots prior to slaughter to enhance marbling of the meat.
7. Eat whole foods. Avoiding convenience foods and cooking from scratch means you have fewer labels to read and worry about.
8. Grow your own. Maybe you don’t want to start your own farm, but growing a few vegetables can be greatly satisfying while supplying your family with organic produce.
9. Know what the numbers mean on labels.
a. 4-digit number: conventionally produced food
b. 5-digit number starting with 8: Genetically modified (Warning: not all GM foods are labeled like this because PLU labeling is optional!)
c. 5-digit number starting with 9: Organic
Have a happy, healthy New Year! And come by Reedy Fork for all your organic dairy and feed needs.