GLG Sample Issue: Genetically engineered ingredients: where’s the labels America?

By Jessica Roberts — July 22, 2012

Pic by Lyndsay Stradtner
Life in Motion Photography

Off to the grocery store to fill your cart with natural, healthy food. You’ve read every food label and are making smarter choices. But did you know those foods could be filled with harmful ingredients not on the food label?

That’s right. Genetically engineered ingredients (GE) account for approximately 60 to 70 percent of foods available in North American food stores contain GE ingredients. And some of the most popular “natural” and healthy products are being called into question for containing GE ingredients.

Consider Kashi: 

Kashi, the popular natural food empire, has built its brand on healthy alternatives to junk food cereals and snack foods. A report in 2011 stated that numerous Kashi products were contaminated with high levels of GE ingredients, sometimes as high as 100 percent.

You might be asking yourself right about now, “Why aren’t GE ingredients labeled? How could Kashi get away with calling their foods “natural” when they contain GE ingredients?”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has never defined “natural” for labeling purposes. Kashi can legally label their products as “natural”. They never made claims the products are organic. Products that bear the USDA organic label cannot legally contain GE ingredients.

Kashi has joined the Non-GMO project and had seven products verified as non-GMO. All new products introduced to consumers will be completely GMO-free. But you will have to wait until 2015 to enjoy your GMO-free Kashi.

Other companies are being questioned for advertising natural ingredients. Brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Frito-Lay, Naked Juice, Snapple and Trader Joe’s are facing lawsuits for making “all natural” claims.

Everyday another health claim, new diet, or news brief challenges your nutritional know-how and food choices. How do you navigate, integrate, and prioritize all the information?

The issue of GMOs needs to be a priority; the consequences of GE ingredients in our food supply affect you, your children and our planet. Let’s take a closer look:

GE ingredients come from foods made with genetically modified organisms. A genetically modified organism, GMO, is an organism whose genetic material has been changed.

The most controversial and widely used application of GMO technology is patent-protected food crops. GMO technology has produced food crops resistant to commercial herbicides. The USA is the largest commercial grower of GMO crops in the world. Corn, soybeans and oil from canola or cotton are the most common GMO crops. The largest share of GMO crops planted globally are owned by the US firm Monsanto.

 What’s the big deal?

Serious health risks are associated with the consumption of GE foods. Several animal studies have identified the following health risks:

  • Infertility
  • Immune problems
  • Accelerated aging
  • Faulty insulin regulation
  • Gastrointestinal system problems

Other reasons to avoid GM foods?

  • Lack of sufficient human safety studies
  • Increase herbicide use
  • Production of new toxins, allergens, carcinogens and nutritional deficiencies
  • Lack of government regulation assessments
  • Harmful to the environment
  • Animals subjected to GE modification are harmed

A new GE crop has been produced by Dow under the brand “Enlist” or otherwise known as “Agent Orange Corn”. The crop is immune to 2,4-D, an ingredient used in Agent Orange. Numerous studies link 2,4-D to cancer, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies also demonstrate that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity and immunosuppression.

Agent Orange Corn” Is probably not something you want in your Sunday morning corn muffins. More than 140 advocacy groups have campaigned to urge USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to reject the introduction of the herbicide and GE crop. Thirty-five medical and public health professionals have also warned the USDA of the potential health threats of 2,4-D. Some farmers are deeply concerned about the new herbicide causing further pollution of the air and water in their communities.

How To Avoid GMOs:

How can you avoid GMOs if so many foods contain GE ingredients? Follow the tips below to fill your pantry and refrigerator with non-GMO foods:

A. Buy products with the Non-GMO Project Seal:

The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing for GMOs in the U.S. and Canada. However, the seal is not a guarantee the product is 100 percent GMO-free. The seal means the product has been produced according to rigorous practices for GMO avoidance. The ingredient must be below 0.9 percent GMO: a requirement in alignment with laws in the European Union.

Pic by nongmoproject.org

B. Ask Questions When Dining Out:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when dining out! A few guidelines will help you navigate the menu and stay GMO-free while dining out.

1. What oils are used to prepare the menu item? You want to avoid soy, cottonseed, canola, and corn oils.

2. Try to avoid processed foods and order meals featuring fresh food items.

3. Avoid salad dressings, condiments, sugar and bread.

4. Avoid dairy, meat, fish and eggs unless the restaurant uses organic, 100 percent grass-fed, or wild caught  products.

  1. Buy Organic:

Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.

D. Avoid foods likely to contain GMOs:

Infant formula, salad dressing, bread, cereal, hamburgers and hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, cereals, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, fried food, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, peanut butter, enriched flour and pasta.

E. Use The Non-GMO Shopping Guide:

An excellent comprehensive online guide and free phone app to help navigate the grocery stores: nongmoshoppingguide.com

The Non-GMO Project has a project called Search Verified Projects, where you can find a list of brands and products commited to ensuring the sustained availability of non-GMO options.

When will GMO’s be labeled in the US?

50 countries, constituting more than 40 percent of the world’s population, currently label genetically engineered foods, including the entire European Union. Why isn’t the US on board yet?

The problem lies in getting state legislators to enact a labeling bill. Fourteen states have labeling bills in legislation just sitting there. California is attempting to become the first state to require GMO labeling within the state.

California is pursuing another avenue to get GMO labeling by employing the initiative process. People can come together and get a law on a ballot to vote for directly, instead of relying on legislators to enact the law.

On November 9, 2011, The Committee for the Right to Know submitted the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to State Attorney General and the 2012 Ballot Initiative Campaign began. Meeting the April 22 deadline, California has reached its target goal of 850,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the state’s November 2012 ballot.

Will the initiative succeed? Far more scientific information, greater public awareness and support are present this time around. Powerful health, environmental and consumer coalitions are providing the momentum needed for success.

Pic by justlabelit.org

 

(Featured picture by Lyndsay Stradtner – Life in Motion Photography)

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