The Lowdown on GMOs

What’s all the fuss around GMOs? You’ve probably heard or read about some groups who claim that eating GMOs can cause autoimmune diseases, food allergies and certain cancers. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are foods that have had their DNA altered through bioengineering. Foods are genetically modified for many reasons, for example, to better repel insects or to increase their shelf life. Currently, the FDA considers genetically modified foods to be safe for consumption.

Here are the facts on genetically modified foods and products where you’ll commonly find them.

Where You’ll Find GMOs

  • Corn, cotton and soybeans are the most common genetically modified foods in the United States. It’s estimated that more than 85% of each crop are produced from genetically engineered sources. Other common genetically modified foods include canola, sugar beets, papaya and alfalfa.

  • GMOs are commonly found in processed foods. GMO-derived ingredients like corn syrup, cottonseed oil and soy lecithin are used liberally in processed foods. Unless a processed food is labeled organic or non-GMO, it’s likely that it has some genetically modified ingredients.

  • Organic foods are non-GMO. This not only applies to organic produce, but also to the feed given to organic livestock. Both an organic apple and an organic chicken are non-GMO.

  • GMOs are banned or restricted in more than 60 countries, including Japan, Australia and all countries in the European Union.  

  • GMO labeling is optional in the United States. Many food producers that make GMO foods choose not to label because doing so may negatively affect sales. The FDA mandates labeling only if there are significant differences in the genetically modified version, such as the presence of a different allergen.

Should You Be Worried About Eating GMOs?

It depends. The tricky part about GMOs is the lack of research that definitively shows they cause specific diseases or are completely safe for long-term consumption. What we do know is that eating more fruits and vegetables can prevent numerous diseases, even if they’re genetically modified.

At Zipongo, we believe in eating foods closest to their natural form. That said, avoiding GMOs when reasonable may be a good idea.

Avoiding Common GMOs

  • Start with the top GMO offenders like corn, soy and canola. Buying the organic versions of these foods is a quick and easy way to avoid common genetically modified foods.

  • Next, focus on purchasing organic meats and animal products. Not only will they be GMO-free, but they will also be free of antibiotics and added growth hormones.

  • Avoid processed, packaged foods. These not-so-healthy foods are also likely to be high in sodium, saturated and trans fats. When reasonable, look for organic or non-GMO verified varieties of packaged foods.

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Bobby is the community and social media manager at Zipongo. He has a degree in nutrition and dietetics and previously worked as a health educator.

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