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Organic Consumers Association

Six Easy Steps to Avoid Common Genetically Modified Foods

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Awareness about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply is at an all-time high throughout America, thanks in large part to the Proposition 37 ballot initiative in California. But many people are now asking the question, "If GMOs aren't labeled, how can I know whether or not the foods I buy contain them?" To help you make the best effort at avoiding GMOs while shopping at the grocery store, here are six recommendations on what to look for and what to avoid.

1) Avoid purchasing foods that contain non-organic soy, corn, cottonseed or canola ingredients. Practically every processed food found in the "middle aisle" section of the grocery store contains some form of soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola, all crops of which are typically GMO if not certified organic. Everything from cookies and crackers to cereals and snack food items contain them, which means you will want to avoid them like the plague.

Common ingredients to specifically watch out for include some of the more obvious ones like high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and canola oil. But several others you will want to be aware of include soy lecithin, an emulsifier added to all sorts of foods, including "health" foods, as well as soy protein, textured vegetable protein, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and food starch. Unless certified organic, all of these ingredients are likely GMO.

2) If PLU code on fruits, vegetables starts with an "8," avoid such produce. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, your first choice will want to be those labeled with a five-digit PLU that begins with a "9," which indicates that it is certified organic. Produce items containing a four-digit PLU are considered "conventional," which means they are not technically GMO, but may still contain pesticides and other toxic residues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a helpful shopping guide for picking out safe produce.

Produce items you will want to specifically and always avoid are those bearing a five-digit PLU beginning with the number "8," as these are GMOs. The vast majority of non-organic papaya, as well as several varieties of non-organic zucchini and squash are also of GM origin, so you will want to specifically purchase organic varieties of these foods as well. Genetic manipulators are also now working on a GM apple that does not turn brown, so watch out for any apple that stays unnaturally white when sliced or bruised.    


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