Are Your Favorite Foods Genetically Modified?
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill—called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”—that would block states from requiring companies to label products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So far, three states (Vermont, Maine and Connecticut) have passed measures that would make GMO labeling mandatory. Vermont’s law would have been the first to go into effect on July 1, 2016.
As you can imagine, GMO labeling (and GMOs in general) is a hotly debated topic. On one side of the argument, food manufacturers claim that it will be difficult (and expensive) to label products based on states’ varying laws. On the other side, non-GMO advocates believe people have the right to know what’s in their food.
Since the bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President, you won’t yet see any mandatory GMO labels in your local supermarket. If you’re interested in avoiding GMOs, you can still rely on voluntary labeling like those that say “Non-GMO Project Verified” or “100% organic.” If your favorite foods don’t have any voluntary labels, refer to this list of the five most common genetically modified ingredients before your next shopping trip:
1. High-fructose corn syrup and sugarAs the name implies, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made from corn. And guess what? About 88% of corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified in some way. You should avoid high-fructose corn syrup anyway, because it’s a sneaky way for more sugar to find its way into your diet. Even traditionally non-sweet foods, like salad dressing or canned soups, can contain HFCS.
Avoiding sugar brings us to another popular GMO—sugar itself. Unless the label says “pure cane sugar,” some of that sugar probably comes from genetically modified sugar beets.
2. Soy productsUp to 94% of American soybeans are GMOs. You’ll need to watch out for foods like soy sauce, tofu and soy milk. Plus, you’re likely to find soy listed on the ingredient labels of many foods, like frozen foods, seasonings, and baking mixes. Some more well-known brands, like Silk, will have the Non-GMO Project Verified label.
3. Vegetable oilsIf you’re cooking with corn, soybean, cottonseed, or canola oil, then there is a high chance you are eating GMOs. Fried foods at restaurants or fast food joints are also likely cooked in one of these oils. Either limit what you eat when you go out or try out alternatives at home like olive, coconut or safflower oil.
4. SquashThere are a handful of varieties of zucchini and yellow summer squash that have been genetically modified to resist viruses that destroy crops. Even though there is a small amount of this squash actually in the food supply, these varieties look exactly the same as non-modified squash. If you’re really worried, then opt for organic squash.
5. PapayasIn the mid ’90s, a virus devastated Hawaii’s papaya production. To revive the industry, a virus-resistant papaya was introduced in 1998. Now, about 77% of the papayas grown in Hawaii are genetically modified. It can be tricky to find papayas that haven’t been scientifically altered, so it’s best to avoid them if you want to limit the GMOs in your diet.
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