Michal Ofer

Do You GMO?

Michal Ofer
Do You GMO?

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are invading our food. You have to wonder how safe they are for human consumption. The genetic makeup of GMO food has been artificially manipulated to create an organism that does not exist in nature. I often refer to these as Frankenfoods —imagining a wire-haired scientist with a tomato and a fish on the table, fusing them together with a loud crack of electricity to create a frost-proof tomato monster! Of course, I understand that is not how the process works, but scientists in a laboratory did create that frost-proof tomato by splicing tomato and fish genes together. Imagine a genetically altered goat that produces spider web in its milk … It sounds like science fiction, but suddenly you may not be so hungry. What do you do when  standing in the middle of the produce section with your basket and your grocery list, mildly aware that you may be surrounded by produce that can be best described as these ‘Frankenfoods’? Stop, do not panic. I have created your GMO survival guide. Here are the top 8 foods that are high risk for being GMO, according to The GMO Project. Watch out for these not only in their whole form, but as ingredients in processed foods.

1.       Soy

Almost all North American soy is genetically modified. This does not just mean tofu. You are going to have to be extra vigilant when buying any kind of processed foods, because GM soy disguises itself as all sorts of things, including: textured vegetable protein, soy protein isolate, mono and di-glycerides, soy sauce, teriyaki, MSG (monosodium glutamate), soybean oil. Sometimes soy can be hiding in these ingredients as well: guar gum, vegetable starch, thickener, mixed tocopherols, and natural flavoring. If careful label and ingredient list scrutinizing does not appeal to you, you would be wise to skip the processed foods altogether!

2.       Corn

Almost 90% of the corn grown in North America is genetically modified. I am not an advocate of using corn at all it is  fresh and organic, but if you have chosen to eat corn, be aware that unless it has the USDA Organic label, it is probably GMO and most likely a type on GM corn known as Bt GM corn—a crop developed to resist pests by exploding their stomachs. Watch for corn oil, high fructose corn syrup, and corn flour in any packaged foods you might be buying.

3.       Canola

What exactly is Canola? It is an oil derived from the less marketing-friendly crop named rapeseed. Food grade Canola was genetically engineered to lower the erucic acid levels, and when you ingest the oil, you are consuming highly concentrated form of this GMO plant. What makes avoiding Canola hard is that it is a staple ingredient in so many food, especially since it has been touted as the healthier choice in oils. You will find Canola in everything from mayonnaise to cookies. If you are purchasing prepared foods you really need to read the labels and ingredient lists very carefully (or avoid them altogether)

4.       Sugar Beets

You are aware of all the obvious reasons why sugar is bad for you, and now here is another to add to that list. Most white sugar comes from sugar beets, and 95% of them are GMO. If you want to use sugar at all, use pure, organic cane sugar (or preferably, coconut sugar).  Good luck of you are purchasing packaged foods and trying to avoid sugar. You will find it in everything from pasta sauce to chips and fruit juices.

5.       Cotton

I understand that your cotton t-shirt is probably not a staple on your dinner plate, but cottonseed oil is in many processed foods. Not only is it probably GMO, but cotton is also a highly sprayed crop and thus full of toxic chemicals you may not want to be eating.

6.       Alfalfa

You might think you are in the clear because you skip the alfalfa sprouts on your sandwich - sorry, think again. The primary use for alfalfa is as a livestock feed for dairy cattle. Once that GMO hay is chewed by the cow, it goes into the cow’s system and thus becomes part of the milk supply. It is best to stay away from commercially produced milk and milk product and skip the sprouts, unless you know they have been organically grown.

7.       Papaya

This NOT the crop you might imagine when you think GMO, but most of the Hawaiian grown papayas are, indeed, engineered. You may not be buying fresh papaya, but keep an out for papaya enzymes and watch your cosmetics as papaya extract is a popular ingredient in lotions, creams, shampoo, conditioner, and other beauty products. Remember, you probably would do best to avoid putting anything on your skin that you would not put on your mouth.

8.       Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash

These are not often hiding in other products, but be sure to buy your zucchini and summer squash organic to make sure you are not buying GMO.

These are the top eight high-risk GMO ingredients that are abundant in our food supply. Wheat, although not on my list of recommended foods, is highly hybridized and highly sprayed with massive amounts of chemicals, but it is not, as of yet, a GMO. Monsanto has actually developed genetically modified wheat, but it never made it to market because of economics and other countries wouldn’t import it.