You’ve seen them in the grocery store, you’ve seen them in the news, and you’ve definitely also seen them on your dinner plate.
GMO foods are much more common than most people realize!
Avoiding GMOs is a tricky business in today’s big-food world. Some foods are a no-brainer – for example, it turns out that there are no genetically modified oats. It has also become easy to avoid GMOs with a smartphone app. But let’s say you were to walk into the supermarket on a whim without your phone.
In fact, once you start looking into what’s genetically modified and what’s not, they’re hard to escape! Luckily, there are a few key foods to avoid if you want to keep the negative environmental, social, and health influence of GMOs out of your life. In this article, we’ll run down the top five offenders and tell you exactly what you need to know to be informed.
So, which are the top 5 most common GMO foods in your daily meals? Which of your dinner options should you always buy organic?
We did some research and turned up the most common GMO foods on the market, and you’d be shocked at exactly how prevalent they turned out to be.
Remember, produce isn’t all that’s GMO! Anything made using genetically modified ingredients is just as bad. That’s doubly important when you consider the popularity of our first ingredient…
It’s contained in many, many things. Next time you’re in the supermarket, take a peek at the ingredients of the foods you pass. From candy bars to frozen dinners, to juice, corn syrup is a constant shadow over the menu. GMO corn is terrible for your body and probably not good for the environment, either. The primary reason behind the genetic engineering of corn is to make it resistant to the effects of plant-eating insects and the pesticides used to kill those bugs. The corn may be poison-resistant, but the real problem is that people aren’t. Genetically modified Roundup Ready corn from the giant agriculture company Monsanto, is guaranteed to be sprayed with glyphosate, one of the nastiest poisons known to humankind. The result is corn that leaves pesticides in your blood. Nasty… You can buy organic canned sweet corn [here] and organic yellow popcorn [here].
Soy is the second most-grown crop in the U.S. (we already said a few words about the first – corn.) Soy, too, is genetically engineered to withstand both natural pests and Roundup, the most popular spray-on bug killer in Big Farming. Just like corn, GMO soy ends up with a LOT of pesticide residue, even after it’s been washed. In fact, though the amounts of the poison glyphosate found on most soy is truly frightening, pesticide residue that ends up in the water and air is also disturbingly common. Less than 1% of all the soy in America is organic, but it’s worth it to suss out the good stuff. Remember, you’re not just making a healthy choice for yourself, you’re voting with your dollars to stop harmful farming practices once and for all. You can buy organic soy beans [here].
In the 1980s, the fruit industry faced a minor crisis. The papaya ringspot virus was set to devastate tropical fruit groves, and by extension, the farmers of Hawaii. Soon, a researcher came up with what appeared to be the perfect solution: a strain of papaya that he had genetically modified to resist the virus. Solution? In the short term, yes. In the long term for us the consumers, not so much.
Thanks to the phenomenon of pollen drift, there are now few truly organic papayas left. An important niche of natural biodiversity has been destroyed forever. Many Hawaiians feel that the decision to “save” the papaya through genetic engineering was made over their heads by interests that cared less about the environmental safety of the Hawaiian islands, and more about selling as many papayas as possible. The fight against Rainbow Papaya continues to this day. You can buy fresh organic papayas on your local co-op and canned organic papaya chunks [here].
4. Sugar beets
Believe it or not, half of the sugar used in the U.S. comes from beets. This is doubly disturbing when we consider the fact that these innocuous little plants are now almost all genetically engineered.
Monsanto, the same giant and almost comically evil seed company that engineers plants to be resistant to its Roundup pesticide, took over the entire U.S. sugar market within two years of rolling out its modified beets. However, before doing so, it failed to do the legally required environmental impact analysis on its new flagship crop. (Aw, really? Those guys? Dishonest?) By the time people figured them out, Monsanto’s GMO beets had displaced organic beets so completely that not enough natural seeds could be found to grow a full beet crop. So now, not only are our beets drenched in poison, but farmers have no option but to grow Monsanto’s nightmarish GMO product. From every angle imaginable, it’s a terrible situation.
The cows that produce non-organic milk go through a great deal of misery, but so far, they themselves aren’t genetically modified. (They are pumped full of rBGH, an artificial growth hormone that helps make their incredibly sad lives even worse. To learn more about non-rBGH dairy product producers, check out this list.) However, that doesn’t mean that dairy can’t be GMO. Milk is often processed into cheese, whey and yogurt using genetically modified bacteria. Often, the only purpose of these bacteria is to color or preserve the milk. A genetically modified fungus also ends up making a lot of our cheeses these days.
Notice how many products on this list end up in other foods? Dairy, for example, doesn’t just pop up in milk and ice cream – it’s also an ingredient in bread, pastries, smoothies, seasoning, health foods, and plenty of other grocery items. Cheese alone appears on everything from pasta to chips. Whenever you’re looking out for GMOs, read all of that fine print on the back of the package. Your health isn’t worth the hidden cost!