If you live in North America it is difficult to avoid purchasing products in the supermarket that do not contain at least some genetically modified food. But if you know how to identify which food is genetically modified you can keep your consumption of it to a minimum. Following are some tips on how you can avoid GM foods:
1. Buy foods that are labeled as being “100% organic.” U.S. and Canadian laws do not allow food labels that say “100% organic” to contain any genetically engineered food, including foods that have been fed genetically modified feed. Be aware, however, that if the food is simply labeled “organic” it can still contain up to 30% of genetically modified food.
2. Look for food labels that specify the product is “non-GM” or “GMO-free.” They are not common, but by supporting the manufacturers that produce products without genetically engineered food you encourage other manufacturers to follow their lead.
3. Know which products and the foods that derive from them are the most likely to have been the result of genetic engineering. For instance:
4. Avoid sweeteners that use aspartame. Aspartame is derived from genetically modified microorganisms and is the sweetener used in products such as NutraSweet® and Equal®. Artificial sweeteners in general are worse for your health than sugar and should be avoided whenever possible.
5. Buy fruit juices that are 100% juice. Most fruit juices apart from papaya are not from GM foods, but the sweetener used in many fruit juices (and sodas as well) is high fructose corn syrup, which is almost certainly from genetically modified corn.
6. The numbers on the stickers you find on produce indicate how the product was grown.
7. Buy 100% grass-fed meat.Though most cattle in the U.S. are grass-fed, they spend the last three to four months of their lives in feedlots where they may be given GM corn and other GM grain products in order to increase the amount of “marbling” in the meat. Meat from feedlot animals also has higher levels of saturated fat and less healthy omega 3 fatty acids than grass-finished animals.
To avoid meat with GMOs, make sure the animal was 100% grass-fed or pasture-fed (sometimes also referred to as grass-finished or pasture-finished). There is also the slight possibility that the animals were fed GM alfalfa, although this is less likely if you buy meat locally. For animals such as pigs and poultry that cannot be 100% grass-fed, it's better to look for meat that is labeled as 100% organic.
Look for wild caught fish instead of farm raised, as farm raised fish are fed fish meal containing GM grains and sometimes meat and bone meal. Eggs should be labeled 100% organic, as those labeled only “free-range“, “natural“, or “cage-free" are not necessarily free of genetically modified organisms.
8. Buy as much food as you can at local farmers' markets. Most genetically modified food comes from large industrial farms. At a farmers' market you can also talk directly with the farmer to find out how the food is grown. These markets usually provide a range of products, such as organic meat, grains, baked goods, etc. Another idea is to become a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm where you receive a box of fresh, seasonal produce each week during the growing season. Your neighborhood co-op is another place to find healthy, non-GMO products. Local Harvest is a website where you can find the markets and farms nearest you.
9. Buy whole, fresh foods rather than processed ones. Foods that you cook and prepare yourself are almost always healthier than anything you can buy ready-made. And cooking healthy food doesn't have to be a big production. There are many simple but delicious and healthy meals that you can prepare in less than 30 minutes that do not involve any genetically modified food.
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