Wednesday, November 07, 2012

when you eat

The election is over, and praise be. My phone is silent and the wasteful fliers I was receiving in the mail (and dumping into the recycle bin without a second glance) have ceased. I trust the nasty commercials are through as well.

It doesn't matter how I voted or what I think of most of what happened last night. Politics are extremely divisive and people on both sides behave very badly. Neither side is able to understand their opponents' views and neither wants to try. Facebook becomes a battleground. Uncomfortable discussions occur around the dinner table at family gatherings. It's over, and I don't want to talk about it any more.

Except for one thing.

In California we had a proposition on the ballot that would have required genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. I supported this, despite claims from opponents' scientists that there's no proof GMOs do us harm. I tend not to trust American regulatory agencies because they've proven in the past they're not looking out for us (consider BPA and certain pesticides, off the top of my head). They're always about 20 steps behind other countries in enacting safety measures for the American public because they're in Big Industry's back pocket.

Take a look at this Q&A from the World Health Organization site, if you're wondering whether or not you should care about GMOs in your food. It's not exactly reassuring. It shows that Europe heavily regulates the use of GMOs and in some cases bans them. As far as health implications, they admit further study is needed.

My opinion is we don't yet know if GMOs are harmful, and we won't know for some time. Personally, I'd like the option of removing them from my diet.

The proposition failed, likely thanks to dollars poured into the campaign against it by the likes of Monsanto and Hershey. Oh, yes. All those delightful miniature candy bars left over from Halloween are comprised of GM ingredients. And Monsanto ... well, if you've read The Omnivore's Dilemma or seen the documentary Food, Inc., you're aware of what they're up to. Put succinctly, they're not in business for your health; it's the money, baby.

They don't want to be forced to label the foods that include GMOs, and it has nothing to do with the cost of labeling. It's because if they labeled them, we'd discover nearly everything we eat contains genetically modified ingredients. And then people might really freak out.

Anyway, Monsanto and Big Business win again, but maybe we'll go to battle again another day. In the meantime, let's talk about how to avoid eating GMOs. Here are a few tips.

- Corn is the single most genetically modified crop out there, and corn is in everything. I'll refer you back to The Omnivore's Dilemma for more information. So basically, a huge amount of processed food has GM corn in it, and one study has shown rats that eat this stuff grow tumors (although some say the study was flawed). Best to avoid processed foods altogether, unless it's labeled non-GMO. Same goes for conventional meat and dairy, since the animals are fed GM corn. Buy beef that's 100% grass-fed or pasture-fed, and other meat and dairy labeled 100% organic.

- All organic fruits and vegetables are non-GMO. Fruits and veggies are also often labeled with a PLU number. If it's a four-digit number, it's conventionally produced. If it's a five-digit number beginning with an 8, it's genetically modified. If it's a five-digit number beginning with a 9, it's organic.

- Most canola, cotton, and soy are GM. Look for non-GMO labels. Personally, I think everyone should avoid soy if only because it's an estrogen-mimicker. There are already plenty of hormones floating around in our food and drinking water; no need to introduce more.

- Rice, pasta, and beans are believed to be safe. (although there is thought to be some GM rice out there)

- Most foods labeled as organic are believed to be safe, but there's no guarantee in the U.S. It will be labeled "100% organic" if it's GMO-free.

- Aspartame contains GMOs. So your diet sodas and sugar-free gum ...

- Realize that even if you are shopping at Whole Foods or other natural/healthy stores, they still sell products containing GMOs.

So, look. It's virtually impossible to avoid eating foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. I certainly eat them all the time. You'd have to quit eating out altogether and buy almost no packaged goods. But at least if we know which foods are GM, we can try to avoid them when possible.

And maybe in the meantime we can work on getting a similar proposition on the next ballot. And next time, let's win.


  1. Thank you! Love this post, and love that we can at least look to Europe for a somewhat better idea of what's killing us. Like basically everything in my shampoo . . .

  2. European countries are so much better about regulating stuff that's killing us!