‘Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.’ It might be a phrase coined in the 17th century, when food served as a prime indicator of social status, lineage or simply how creative you could get with the potato stew, but these words still set the table for today’s food industry practices. Manufacturing food ingredients in a lab via radiation, DNA mutation, gene deletion and transgenesis (a practice which ensures that future crops will inherit the mutated genes of their predecessors), has been upgraded in recent years from sci-fi scenario to common practice.
Despite a general uproar of protest, most governments aren’t seen to ban GMOs anytime soon. There are some that grudgingly responded to public concern, such as the Congress of the United States recently passing new legislation that will force companies to provide disclosure codes to food items so that consumers can easily identify genetically modified food ingredients. The law, however, has its limitations.
The following list does not. Full disclosure mode on, it calls the top GMOs food ingredients to the stand and grills them into a confession of guilt.
Food Ingredients to Avoid If You’re on a Non-GMO Diet
The first item on our list to take the heat is corn. For decades, maize crops have been genetically tampered with to present agriculturally-desirable features, like resistance to herbicides and production of their own insecticide.
Unfortunately, the food market is flooded with recipes based on ingredients like Bt-corn – a version of maize widely used in organic gardening and genetically altered to contain a bacteria protein poisonous to certain pests.
Read the labels and you’ll find corn commonly listed as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup or corn starch. In order to avoid corn and corn-derived products, try shopping for cereals, tortillas, and other organic items.
What are the effects Bt-corn consumption on health? A number of studies have proved inconclusive, and to that extent, the governmental policy regulating the market at the moment has decided to run the precautionary principle. In other words, you eat it at your health’s expense.
High-fructose corn syrup
“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
The high-fructose corn syrup ranks on our list of genetically modified food ingredients not only because it shares family ties to Bt-corn, but also for its role as a man-made sweetener, in 21st-century epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
Wait, we’re not finished. In some cases even, mercury seems to have infiltrated into the manufacturing process, adding to the dangers of consuming the stuff. No surprise then that HFCS is an acronym of little popularity nowadays.
This might be a hit to the food craving we all indulge in at times, and Oktoberfest is surely not going to appreciate its top brand making the cut among other notoriously toxic food ingredients. However, unless it’s homemade, the hot dog or the Italian sausage that tickles your taste buds with the gourmand’s pleasure most likely contains a GMO.
In addition to other preservatives, most sausages, especially the pre-packaged type, contain corn syrup as well.
Ever since Monsanto introduced glyphosate-tolerant soybeans to withstand the company’s heavy use of herbicides in 1995, soy has become one of the most prevalent genetically engineered food ingredients in supermarkets today. In 2010, studies showed that 93% of all soybeans cultivated for the markets in the United States were GMOs.
The numbers are worrying when you take into consideration that 85% of the world’s soybean deposits is processed into soy derivatives, such as soybean oil, soy milk, tofu, dietary supplements, lecithin, sauces like Teriyaki and Worcestershire, mayo, dips, veggie burgers, infant formula, and many other mock meat products. Even your morning spread of peanut butter on toast may contain traces of soybeans.
And how did we react to such news? We went from the frying pan into the fire.
In a recent move hailed as a ‘milestone’ to Monsanto business figures, while it was meant to usher the always skeptical European Countries into a new age of growing sympathy towards genetically modified crops, the European Commission has given the green light to three insecticide resistant soybean varieties.
Bonne appetite, vegetarians worldwide!
Forever now, sugar beets have been a fighting bitter war against weed. So leaders of the GMO industry have come to their aid by spraying an armor of glysophate DNA and toxic chemicals on 99% of all crops in the United States.
What does that measure in spoonfuls of sugar? Of the nearly 130 million metric tons of the sweet stuff produced at a global level each year, sugar beets make up for a third of the amount. They’re a popular substitute for sugar cane since they don’t require a tropical climate.
On the list of GM food ingredients, sugar beets make undercover, 007 appearances. Their many names include inverted sugar syrup, caramel color, caramel, and sugar beet syrup.
So, in order to avoid sugar beets, just stay clear of products containing sucrose, or sugar. Instead, look for items labeled as containing 100 percent sugar, or organic sweeteners like agave and raw honey.
Nowadays, once you dive into the dairy products aisle, you’re swimming in murky waters. Literally.
Monsanto is one company that has injected Bovine Growth Hormones in an attempt to create a new breed of super cows that will match that of the super chicken, one can only presume. The hormone-injected cattle are more prone to mastitis, an infection of the utter that can lead to blood and pus in the milk, as well as a lowered calcium level in your daily breakfast of milk and cereals.
Needless to say, all dairy products derived from milk should be avoided. A GMO-free list includes cream, sour cream, mozzarella and cheese that use organic or goat milk as the source ingredient.
Most Infant Formulas, among which three of the top brands in the USA, are loaded with genetically modified milk and soy, corn and sugar.
However, in the aftermath of new labeling laws, most brands have taken oaths of good faith and promised a fresh start with GMO-free infant formulas. We can only wonder what shortcut they will find this time around.
Canola is a by-product of the rapeseed – which, by the way, it’s naturally toxic to humans, if the term ‘natural’ can even be applied to the 90 percent of genetically altered crops. The oil first started its journey up the celebrity path in such commercial products as lipstick, candles, and soap.
However, since with fame comes controversy, canola oil is not spared the simmering rage of wannabe GMO-free consumers. So here’s an alternative. Instead of purchasing the much-debated canola oil, try olive oil for a summer salad recipe or coconut oil for those fries you can’t do without.
What We’ve Learned
Recipes based on food ingredients are hard to come around since GMOs have spread like wildfire across fields and ecosystems. Until we can cook up a better strategy, all you can do to keep a sustainable free-GMO diet is to take the above into consideration when you write your next grocery list.