Avoiding Factory Foods

In polls taken in the U.S. and Canada, over 80% of participants want food containing GMO ingredients labeled. Consumers have a right to know what they are eating, but it’s increasingly evident that we’re not getting any help in that regard from our regulators. So it’s up to us to know what to look for so we can make informed purchasing decisions. Avoiding GE ingredients isn’t easy and once you make the transition from purchasing food without transgenic ingredients, you’ll be surprised how much of it is on grocery shelves and in your kitchen. Estimates indicate that more than 75 percent of the food in supermarkets is genetically engineered or contains transgenic ingredients and that doesn’t include meat products.

The most reliable way to avoid transgenic ingredients in your food is to be on the lookout for the four most common transgenic ingredients:

Field corn and corn-derived ingredients:
The U.S. is the world’s largest corn producer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, last year, American farmers planted more corn than any other crop, covering 95 million acres. (USDA 2013a). Almost 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered (USDA 2013b). Most of the transgenic crop is cultivated for animal feed, but nearly 12 percent is processed into corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, masa, corn meal and corn oil. All of those transgenic products end up in foods consumed by humans (EPA 2013). Assume that when these ingredients are listed on the food labels of processed food, they are genetically engineered. Be on the lookout for GMO sweet corn or table grown in both Canada and the US. It’s making its way into grocery stores and farmers markets and it doesn’t have to be labelled.

Soybeans and soybean-derived ingredients:
Soybeans are the second most planted American crop, covering more than 76 million acres last year (USDA 2013a). Almost 93 percent of soybeans grown in that country has been genetically engineered (USDA 2013b). Soybean-based products and soybean-derived ingredients are common on supermarket shelves. Assume processed food products that contain soy proteins, soybean oil, soy milk, soy flour, soy sauce, tofu or soy lecithin are transgenic unless they are certified organic or GE-free.

Roughly 55 percent of the sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, 95 percent of which have been genetically engineered (USDA 2013c). If a product label does not specify that it has been made with “pure cane” sugar, chances are very likely that the sugar is genetically engineered beet sugar.

Vegetable Oils:
Assume that vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and corn oil are genetically engineered. Nearly 90 percent of American oilseed production is soybeans, of which almost 100 percent is genetically engineered (USDA 2013b). The remaining 10 percent of oilseed crops are cottonseed, sunflower seed, canola, rapeseed, and peanut. Canola and cottonseed oil are primarily from transgenic crops. More than 90 percent of corn oil is derived from genetically engineered corn.