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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Eat Real Food! 5 Ways to Avoid GMO - Say No To Genetically Modified Products

I am no expert on diet and nutrition, but like most parents, my family's health is important to me. By providing a balanced diet and home cooked meals I do the best I can to make sure my children eat fresh foods and avoid junk as much as possible. If you're like me, you may think you're doing the right things, but instead be all wrong. We cannot afford to take for granted that the food we purchase and feed our families will nourish them. In fact, scientific research is finding that the consequences of being an uninformed consumer can lead to chronic illness, cancer or worse. My eyes were opened after a dinner party conversation with a Mom friend who is a nutritionist. She shared her thoughts on Genetically Modified (GM) food products and encouraged me to do my own research. I'm just scratching the surface, but felt compelled to share what I've learned so far with my family, friends and readers.

In recent years nutrition has been highlighted as a critical defense against the rising number of overweight and inactive children, particularly in America. In February 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a multi-million dollar public and private investment to improve access to healthy food. The President’s 2012 Budget proposes funding for the initiative to increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods in underserved urban and rural communities. In middle class areas the demand for organic products has grown. Systemically activists have lobbied for healthier lunchroom offerings and for fruits to be included in fast food kid's meals. Food producers have been urged to label food honestly and be transparent with consumers. You'd think we're on the way to ensuring people are fueling their bodies with food that enhances their lives. Sadly, just as strides have been made to improve our collective health by changing how we eat, science and big business has been altering much of what we ingest.

The existence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is not a secret. However, many people are simply unaware, or don't fully understand how dangerous these mutated foods can be to ourselves and our children. GMOs are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering). GMOs have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit. Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.

Continue reading below to find 5 ways to avoid GMO foods and learn more about the subject.

1. Shop Local, Know Your Grocer!
Patronize your local Farmer's Market or Independent Grocer as much as possible. Buy fresh food, especially produce grown near where you live. It's tastes better, is better for you and supports the local economy. A weekend trip to your local farmer's market can be lots of fun for your entire family. Sample tasty treats that your children will surely enjoy. Beyond the green stuff, you can find delicious hummus, salsa, cheese, bread and more. Pick up a few bunches of pretty flowers to brighten your day and decorate your dining room table. If you need more reasons follow this link

Become a regular at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Whole Foods Market and 365 brands are non-GMO and all of Trader Joe’s store brand products are Non-GMO. Both companies have statements on GM ingredients on their website. If you are not able to, or, prefer to shop at other grocery stores do your research. Many have statements about their GM ingredients online. Visit the website of your favorite big box stores and investigate. If you can't find info online many list an email address where you can send questions about their philosophies, practices and the quality of brands they stock.

2. Buy Organic or Store Brand Products
By now we've learned that it's most healthful to buy organic produce, meats and dairy products. Organic fruits and vegetables are chemical free and organic meats come from animals that are raised in humane environments on organic feed - without any antibiotics or growth hormones. However, the higher price of organic food leaves many people either unwilling or unable to purchase it regularly. What you might not realize is that many supermarkets now have private label (generic) organic brands to choose from, and a few notable chains have removed GMO ingredients from some or all of their non-organic private label products. Store-brand products are often a great way to purchase non-GMO and USDA Certified Organic products in the supermarket as they are often much less expensive than the national brands.
You may keep an eye open for items with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal. The seal indicates that the product has gone through a specific verification process. Find out what criteria is used to determine food safety for the seal at

3. Avoid At-Risk Ingredients
The seven most prevalent GMO crops—soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, Hawaiian papaya, and a small amount of zucchini and yellow crook neck squash—look just like their naturally grown counterparts. Most GM ingredients eaten by US consumers are in the form of products made from corn and soybeans and used in processed foods. GMO sweetener aspartame is a big one too. Aspartame is created in part by GM microorganisms and is found in over 6000 products, including soft drinks, gum, candy, desserts and mixes, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, and some pharmaceuticals such as vitamins and sugar-free cough drops.
*Novel products such as seedless watermelons, pear/apple combos and tangelos are products of natural breeding and are not genetically engineered.

4. There's An App For That!
When you're on the go and need help avoiding GMOs just download some easy tools to help you make healthy choices and fill your grocery cart with the right stuff. Check out these mobile device apps that can assist you in steering clear of GMOs: The True Food Shoppers’ Guide to Avoiding GMOs, Don't Eat That, ShopNoGMO and Non GMO Project Shopping Guide.

5. Get To Know Monsanto Co.
Monsanto Company is a publicly traded American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri, website is Monsanto was among the first to genetically modify a plant cell and in 1987 began to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops. Before it turned to seed technology, Monsanto was primarily a purveyor of chemicals, including Agent Orange herbicide blamed for widespread health problems during its use by the military in the Vietnam War. Then there was an Alabama plant closed in 1972, where Monsanto made polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, chemicals later banned for being linked to a range of health problems. Currently, as a single company, Monsanto supplies nearly all genetically modified traits commonly used in crops, which it licenses to it's rivals for sale in their own seeds. We're talking big, big business. As of January 8, 2013 the company's sales grew 21 percent to $2.9 billion in their first quarter, with most of the increase coming from the company's corn seed business, especially due to expansion in Latin America. In fairness, Monsanto claims it's crop engineering has a non-profit arm in that they can help feed millions of hungry people around the world. Nutritionists, scientists and humanitarian activists vigorously disagree. An interesting editorial on Monsanto's anti-hunger platform here:

* Bonus Tip! Serve Up Super Foods!
We've "talked" a lot about what not to eat in this post. So what foods should we add to our family's meals? Try a variety of documented Superfoods, foods rich in phytochemicals. Phytochemicals can reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer, reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system, or in some other way contribute to a person being healthier. Blueberries, pomegranates, wild omega-3-rich fish, garlic, onion, curry spice, whole grains, olive oil, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, red grapes, peppers, crucifers (broccoli, kale, cabbage), tomatoes, quinoa, kiwi, natural yogurt (kefir), sweet potatoes, avocado and dark chocolate are just a few to incorporate into your diet for an extra nutritional boost.

We are not yet living in the age of the bionic man or woman, but genetically altered fruits, vegetables even salmon seem to be here to stay. I am now committed to learning all I can about GMOs and the effects they have on our bodies, our environment and the global economy. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the greenest girl on the block, but it's becoming clear that if I am not more cautious about food selection I could be putting my family at risk. As I acquire more meaningful information I promise to share it with my audience. In the meantime visit some of the websites below!

Full Length Research Study - Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant
genetically modified maize

Information on California's Prop 37 vote which would requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural.