October is Non-GMO Month, and to educate our audience on the ever-changing GMO landscape, we’ve put together some important information for you about GMOs and how to avoid them – what GMOs are, which genetically modified or engineered crops can be found in the marketplace, and how to identify and avoid them.
What Are GMOs?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term GMO, it stands for genetically modified organisms, which means they’ve been created through the application of transgenic, gene-splicing techniques. These transgenic methods for moving genes around are also called genetic engineering, or GE.
Organic Has Always Been Non-GMO
The best way to avoid GMOs is to choose certified organic – food grown in tandem with nature, not against it. Certified organic products can’t contain genetically engineered ingredients, so certified organic farmers use certified organic seeds that haven’t been manipulated in a lab.
GMO Foods in the Marketplace
GMO crops that can be found in the marketplace or have been approved for release, even though they may not be labeled, include:
- cottonseed oil
- sugar beets
- salmon (soon to be released)
Since more than 75% of conventional processed foods contain a genetically modified ingredient, it’s highly likely that any food you eat will contain ingredients from GMO crops such as cornstarch, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and sugar. This is true even of fresh produce like potatoes, zucchini, pink pineapples, eggplant, apples, and papayas.
But most American GMO crops are used for animal food. For example, dairy cows eat a combination of GMO corn, soy, cottonseed, and alfalfa, in contrast, to organically raised dairy cows, which eat a combination of grass from the pasture where they’re raised, and organic grains when needed. For example, organic farmers in colder climates can supplement feeding their cows with organic grains as the pasture winters over.
Soon the first genetically engineered animal product will appear in stores. The FDA has approved AquAdvantage salmon, an Atlantic salmon that’s been genetically modified to grow faster than farm-raised salmon. To avoid GMO salmon, speak to your seafood department and ask for wild salmon.
How To Avoid GMOs
Since 2008 Americans have demanded mandatory GMO labeling in the U.S., as is required in most parts of the world. But large biotech companies have spent millions fighting clear GMO labeling in this country. A new law implementing a “bioengineered” label took effect in January 2020, but it won’t be fully mandated until January 2022. Any product containing genetically modified organism products or byproducts must say so on the label. After January 1, 2022, if the product doesn’t contain this label, it must be free of GMO ingredients.
Despite using the term “bioengineered,” it’s important to understand that foods bearing the new label, below, do contain GMOs. To avoid genetically engineered ingredients, don’t buy products with this label.
Non-GMO Label Versus Certified Organic Label
One of the most confusing labeling differences is the one between the well-known non-GMO Verified “butterfly” label and the Department of Agriculture’s Certified Organic seal. This infographic explains what you’re buying when you choose certified organic.
This should be simple for consumers – buying USDA organic products means the product is already non-GMO, along with so many other criteria. But many consumers don’t know this.
The USDA organic seal gives peace of mind to anyone shopping for food. Food products with the USDA organic seal are prohibited from being made with the use of GMOs, antibiotics, herbicides, toxic chemicals, and more. Organic crops can’t be grown with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or sewage sludge. And the seal also requires the humane treatment of animals – their feed must be certified organic, they must have access to pasture and they can’t be treated with hormones or antibiotics. Learn more about USDA organic here.
By contrast, non-GMO Verified products exclude GMO ingredients only, so the product itself isn’t necessarily free from toxic chemicals such as glyphosate, dicamba, or more than 700 other chemicals used in conventional food production.
This Non-GMO Month and beyond, choose certified organic to avoid GMOs and support a healthy organic food future for us all. To learn more about our campaign “Skip The Chemicals,” click here. www.skipthechemicals.com