Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Healthy Change #10: Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

Well, I've put off writing the 10th and final change in my "Ten Changes to Make for Healthier Living" series as long as possible.  It's now the first of February, and I can no longer procrastinate. For me, it's the hardest of all the changes, not just writing about, but also following. I barely have a handle on this change myself.

Change #10:  Avoid Genetically Modified Foods

In order to make crops more resistant to disease, weeds and pest, more tolerant to drought and cold weather and more nutritious, many have been genetically modified.  Genetically Modified (GM) Food has been unnaturally altered by inserting genetic fragments (DNA) from one organism to another. According to the World Health Organization, the inserted DNA is usually from a different species. The genes can be taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals and even humans. 

Other than the fact that we are not eating food in it's true form, why avoid foods that have been genetically modified? According to the Academy of Environmental Medicine, "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health and are without benefit."  Just last month, The Huffington Post wrote of a study linking GM food to organ failure.

But beyond the food we eat, there is a serious impact to the environment.  The Center for Food Safety (CFS) outlines the environmental impacts to include an "uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and a potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material."

The US doesn't require food manufacturers to label GMO products so it's difficult to know which foods have been altered.  I've read that there is an estimated 30,000 foods found on grocery store shelves that contain a GM ingredient or 75% of processed foods in the US.  DisabledWorld.com reported that from 1995 to 2005, total worldwide land surface growing GMO crops increased from 4.2 million acres to 222 million acres.

There are many GM foods, but five account for the highest volume of food and food ingredients.  The CFS reports that "currently, up to 85 percent of US corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is used in food products)." Canola is one of the top five, and newly added is sugar beets.  Some examples of these GMO products:

Corn - corn flour, meal, oil, starch & syrup, sweetners (fructose, glucose), modified food starch
Soy - soy flour, lecithin, vegetable oil, soy beverages, tofu
Cotton - cottonseed oil
Canola - canola oil
Sugar Beets - any sweetener not labeled 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or organic sugar

Unless the product package specifies that the food is non-GMO, then you can assume that if it has one of these ingredients, then it's been genetically modified.  The best list of GMO crops I've found is on DisabledWorld.com.  Here's an incredible Non-GMO Shopping Guide.  It lists products by brands, includes brands that do use GMO ingredients and lists a ton of "hidden" GMO ingredients.

What's most difficult for me, is that I can't seem to avoid GMO foods without making drastic and unwanted changes to our shopping and eating habits.  In fact, it makes me downright angry to find out that we've been human guinea pigs for years now, and that I've unknowingly feed my family these foods.  It's possible that the soy formula and milk that Abigail drank from 7 months of age to the age of 2 could very well be the cause of her peanut allergy.  Since 1996, when GMO's hit the mainstream food supply, food allergies and chronic diseases have doubled. From what I am reading, there is not adequate testing, our government is leaving it up to big business to determine what's safe and what's not, other countries' governments have long since realized that there is a serious health risk and are imposing regulations while big business is doing everything in it's power to shut down the small farmers who want to avoid the use of genetically modified seeds for their crops.
NaturalNews.com has created a good list of ways to avoid GMO foods.  Obviously, eating organic is the easiest.  Using the shopping guide I mentioned above is helpful, but frustrating.  The products tend to be more expensive and many aren't safe for our household because of the risk of cross-contamination with peanuts/tree nuts.  I've done a few things like purchase organic produce, rice and canned goods, switched to Safflower Oil for cooking, purchase Kashi crackers and cereal, and Kettle potato chips.  Trader Joes is another source for non-GMO snacks.  However, I've got a really long way to go!

Here are a few more links if you want to do a little more reading. 

State-Of-The-Science On The Health Risks of GM Foods paper is one of the best sources of information that I've come across.  It's published by the Institute of Responsible Technology.  Starting on Page 9, there is a several pages devoted to the link between the rise in food allergies and GM foods, particularly the impact of GM soy and the rise of peanut allergies

Say No To GMOs!


juno said...

Quote: "purchase Kashi crackers and cereal"

Morningstar Farms, Kashi, and BearNaked are all owned by Kellogg Company. Kellogg's uses GMO's in their American made products, and they claim it's for "consumer driven" reasons. Kashi cereal is made with organic (hopefully non GMO) ingredients, however by buying Kashi you are supporting the Kellogg Co.

If you really want to say NO to GMO, I hope you will reconsider your purchase of Kashi.

Mom with a Mission said...

Juno thanks for the comment. You are totally correct. When I wrote this post, Kellogg's wasn't a target by the Organic Consumer Association. Check out this link for the statement by Kellogg's customer service stating that they felt GMO products were perfectly safe, and oh by the way, we're probably getting GMO in our organic anyway so why bother...http://www.organicconsumers.org/monlink.cfm.

My problem with not purchasing any of the organic Kashi products is that it doesn't leave many options for cereal for my family. I can find one or two of the Cascadian Farms brand cereal, but it's not a favorite and there are only 2 types of Trader Joe's cereal that my family enjoys. The rest of the organic cereal is manufactured with peanuts/tree nuts or in a facility where there is a chance of cross-contamination. We eat cereal 5 out of 7 mornings a week. I'm stuck. I don't purchase any of the other Kashi products though.

Thanks again! Hope you'll keep reading. Let me know if there are any other cereal brands I should keep an eye out for.


Marc said...

Not all Kashi cereals are Organic, actually only a few are organic. Same goes for their other products. I was under the false impression that ALL Kashi products were organic, far from it.

cutaway5 said...

AVOID Morningstar Farms-- TOTALLY GMO!
They lie by labeling such as, "Non-GMO Soy!" but they fail to say thatthe Canola oil is GMO, and other dangerous ingredients too. They also use hydrolized vegetable proteins, which are excito-toxins; that is, they literally excite brain cells to death. Yep, this accounts for headaches, etc in many people. MSG is another excito-toxin. Very bad for brain health, concentration, etc.