A few weeks ago, I wrote about the European study linking genetically modified corn and Monsanto’s weed-killing Round Up spray to cancerous tumors and other health concerns. This study led to America’s GMO corn being banned in Russia and pending reviews by other European countries.

As with all studies, some will challenge the results and even the study’s scientists say the study will need to be replicated. But seeing the pictures of the tumor-laden rats wasn’t necessary for me to confirm what I know intuitively: that these products are not in our best health interests.

As the attention focuses around the upcoming Proposition 37 in California, which would potentially change the food industry forever by requiring companies to label genetically modified food ingredients, conversations with leading health food executives are making the news. Recently, a Whole Foods executive was interviewed admitting that Whole Foods’ products contain GMOs. Apparently, many customers were shocked by this fact. But as we have discussed in the past, GMOs are so pervasive, it is almost impossible to avoid them, even if you are trying.

So the question is not “Are they there?” as much as “How hard are the stores trying to avoid them?”

In the interview, Libba Letton, who is in charge of investor relations and food safety for the store chain said, “Unless a store is all organic, every store in the country sells unlabeled genetically modified [foods].” She went on to say, “I don’t think that Whole Foods does anything to try to make people think that we don’t have food with GMOs in them.”

Recently, in a blogpost, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey confirmed that Whole Foods knowingly sells Monsanto GM corn in numerous products, which may include some of its house brand products. Genetically modified ingredients may be everywhere, but Whole Foods certainly doesn’t seem concerned about trying to avoid them.

For me, I stopped shopping at Whole Foods because it is expensive, and because most of what I am looking for when I shop is organic produce and grass-fed meat. I found that the majority of produce at Whole Foods was conventional and I really had to hunt for organic products. When I found them, they were very expensive. Same with the meat, so I switched to Trader Joe’s where I can affordably find what I need to feed my family.

But even though I am not a Whole Foods shopper, I confess to be shocked by the acceptance and overall lack of concern regarding the presence of genetically modified ingredients in a store supposedly committed to healthy living.

Trader Joe’s has not escaped without question however. Some organizations are demanding that Trader Joe’s show proof that there are no GMO ingredients in any of the products they sell. Trader Joe’s faces the challenge: how do you guarantee something isn’t there when you are buying from a supplier who probably can’t guarantee it either? Or may not want to be forthcoming about it for fear of losing their account revenue?

If you promise they are not there and someday, they are found in some way in some product, intention doesn’t seem to matter: credibility is shot, lawsuits will follow and you are now taking full responsibility for something that is actually out of your control. There are so many steps along the food chain process where GMOs could possibly sneak in along the way. But unlike Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s has publicly made the commitment to do their best to avoid GMO ingredients and to replace them or find new suppliers if they discover they exist.

They have committed publicly on their website that their private label products are GMO-free. Here’s what their website says about non-GMO products:

“Our customers can be assured that all products in Trader Joe’s private label are sourced from non-genetically modified ingredients. Our efforts began in 2001, when we determined that, given a choice, our customers would prefer to eat foods and beverages made without the use of genetically engineered ingredients. Our process has been to identify any product containing ingredients that could potentially be derived from genetically engineered crops and work with our suppliers to replace offending ingredients with acceptable alternatives.”

They may not be able to guarantee that there is not a GMO in any single product that they sell: in today’s world that may be impossible. But they are doing their best and are standing behind the products that they themselves produce. That’s a big difference in attitude and approach, don’t you think?

All this comes as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced that the average American eats more than his or her body weight in GMOs every year. Using 2011 data from the Department of Agriculture (USDA), genetically modified foods corn products such as corn oil, salad oils, corn meal, and corn-based sweeteners such as corn syrup, EWG showed that the average person consumes 193 pounds of GM corn products, beet sugar and salad oils such as soybean oil. (The average American weighs 179 pounds.)

That was just the result of looking at three main products and there are another 30 GM food products currently in trials. Among the genetically engineered crops coming soon are apples, barley, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, chili peppers, coffee, cranberries, cucumber, flax, grapefruit, kiwi, lentils, lettuce, melons, mustard, oats, olives, onions, peanuts, pears, peas, persimmons, pineapple, radishes, strawberries, sugar cane, sunflower, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, walnuts and watercress.

EWG concluded it is likely that we could be eating 2-3 times our weight in GM foods within the next decade. (All without any long-term health impact testing.)

Before we leave this topic, there is an interesting twist on the use of GMOs in animal feed that was recently reported by a Canadian paper. (Isn’t it interesting that all these breaking stories about American food come from Europe and Canada and are barely covered in the news here?) The Vancouver Sun recently reported via Reuters that due to the warm weather we had this summer and the resulting drought, the crop this year will be the smallest in six years. That makes GMO corn a scarce commodity right now.

Because it is in such high demand in food products, the price has risen to the point that it is not as affordable for farmers to use as animal feed. You might think that is good news, and, well, on some levels it certainly is, even though it’s just a temporary situation. But as corn rises, so does the price of any other alternatives or “co-products” to feed the livestock. The corn in their diet is a source of fat, energy and sugar, according to Hansen Mueller Grain who provides animal feed options. So what do you feed a cow to replace the fat, energy and sugar corn provides?

The answer: gummy worms (made with corn syrup), ice cream sprinkles and marshmallows. Add to that leftover food scraps, cereals like Fruit Loops, and even orange peels. The old adage “you are what you eat” applies to animals, too as they are not immune from the impact of dyes and preservatives, fructose and chemicals which will remain stored in their fat. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t eat that myself, so why would I want to eat it via my meat?

So how do we make better choices and avoid GMOs? It isn’t easy, as we’ve discussed, as GMO products are everywhere and are not required to be labeled. Yet, though I am hoping that will change after the Proposition 37 vote in California this election. The answer is to limit packaged and prepared foods and if you must buy them, to be sure they are labeled as certified organic (which cannot contain GMO products) or certified GMO-free. Natural or all natural is not a legally defined or enforceable term, so it is really a meaningless marketing statement.

Look for grass fed beef, which means the cows aren’t being fed GMO grains, candy or food scraps but rather, they are eating what nature intended them to eat. Avoid farm-raised fish as they face the same food challenges. As for poultry (and eggs) and pork, they are not as likely to be eating the candy alternatives, but virtually always are fed vegetarian grain diets that often include GMO products. It is hard to find — and often expensive to find — chicken allowed to eat a natural diet of grass and bugs but if you can find it and you can afford it, buy it!

If not, limit chicken and pork consumption (don’t eat chicken every night!), as even cage free typically means vegetarian feed. And definitely buy organic chicken and pork and animal products. This is one area that is definitely worth the investment.

To avoid genetically modified produce, stick to organic. Organic produce is labeled with a product code starting with the number 9. Labelled GMO products begin with the number 8 and should be avoided.

But labeling produce is optional so if you buy conventionally grown produce such as 3 or 4, or any other number besides 8 or 9, all you know is that it’s not organic. You will not know for sure if it’s genetically modified. So to the extent you can, invest in organic and try to minimize your consumption of corn and corn-based products.


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.IngerPols.com

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