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GMO to eat or not to eat?

GMO to eat or not to eat? That is the question I hear most often today! Let’s go over the basic so you can make an informed choice about gmo food.

What is a GMO?

Genetically Modified Organisms is what GMO stands for. GMO is a bio-technology process of adding other organisms DNA (bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals) to plants (or animals) mainly to enhance a trait in the plant or animal. The first licensed GMO food was the Flavr Savr Tomato (1990’s), designed to improve the transportation and shelf life of the tomato, but not the flavor or texture? GMO’s are used largely to increase resistance to plant diseases so less pesticide is used while growing the plants. But bugs and plants (life itself) are constantly evolving, and now more pesticides are needed for growing GMO crops, thus it appears to be a failed experiment in this regard.

The process of GMO does not occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding of plants. Fruit trees have been hybrid to create stronger trees, new fruits (tangelo) and to bring out other desirable traits. You may have experienced this in your vegetable garden with seeds left in the ground that naturally crossbreed the following year to create different varieties. In another process, seedless watermelon originally developed by crossbreeding (a time consuming process) is made using the chemical colchicine to create an extra set of chromosomes in a regular melon. This melon is then crossed with a regular watermelon to create a seedless or sterile watermelon. Seedless Watermelon uses a chemical, not a GMO so it is not a GMO food.

Food safety of GMO food This is where GMO food becomes murky. The food safety research was done by the companies producing the GMO seeds. Hmm…one of the first things instilled in me at UC Davis was to look at who funded the research! In the U.S. the corporately funded research was enough to bring GMO food to your table. GMO’s are banned in over 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and the European Union countries. In my opinion GMO food is a grand experiment on a large scale.

The Non-GMO project states on their website that “there is evidence emerging connecting GMO’s with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights…GMO’s now comprise as much as 80% of conventional processed foods.”

How do you ensure that your food is GMO free?

1. Choose ORGANIC. Organic by definition is GMO free.

2. Choose foods with a Non-GMO verified seal (the butterfly seal). These foods may contain pesticides.

NonGMOseal

3. Avoid the following list of High-Risk GMO crops (from Non-GMO project website):

a. Alfalfa

b. Canola

c. Corn

d. Cotton

e. Papaya

f. Soy

g. Sugar Beets

h. Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash

4. Monitored Crops are suspected or known contaminated crops (from Non-GMO project website):

a. Beta Vulgaris (e.g., chard, table beets)

b. Brassica napa (e.g., rutabaga, Sibreian kale)

c. Brassica rapa (e.g., bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, turnip, rapini, tatsoi)

d. Cucurbita (acorn squash, delicata squash, patty pan)

e. Flax

f. Rice

g. Wheat

Here’s what these products look like on a food label (from Non-GMO project website):

• Amino acids

• Aspartame

• Ascorbic Acid

• Sodium Ascorbate

• Vitamin C

• Citric Acid

• Sodium Citrate

• Ethanol

• Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”)

• High-Fructose Corn Syrup

• Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein

• Lactic Acid

• Maltodextrins

• Molasses

• Monosodium Glutamate

• Sucrose

• Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)

• Xanthan Gum

• Vitamins (Extra guest blog this month on GMO’s in supplements)

• Yeast Products

Please go to the Non GMO Project web site for the most up-to-date listing.

When I make food choices I always ask if it was something my grandmother had on her plate? If not, it’s a new food and there isn’t long term information on the effects to our human bodies, thus I do my best to avoid it as much as possible. As you can see this takes a lot of research and label reading.

When you choose to avoid GMO’s:

1. Choose Organic. By definition Organic is GMO free.

2. Choose GMO free – look for the butterfly seal. Now it’s your turn to tell me about your choice and why in the comments section below: GMO, Non-GMO or Organic?

I’m thrilled to have a Guest blog post in 2 weeks on GMO’s in supplements PLUS this month’s newsletter will contain a list of seasonal food resources.

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