GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding, and many shoppers prefer to avoid them. Find a list of high risk crops, here. While changing shopping habits can seem intimidating at first, by following these basic tips you can feel confident that you know what you’re feeding your friends and family.
Fortunately, the produce aisle is not only full of healthy, fresh choices, but is also the easiest place in the store to avoid GMOs. Choose organic produce to avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides, and try to buy local produce to support a strong, sustainable regional economy and your local farmers.
Meat, Dairy, Fish & Poultry
GMO corn and soy are common ingredients in feed for livestock. Look for Non-GMO Project Verified dairy, eggs, meat and fish for assurance that the animals have been fed a non-GMO diet. Choosing organic, grass-fed or wild-caught is a risk-reduction strategy when a verified option isn’t available.
If you’re scooping from a bin in the bulk aisle, a lot of what you’ll find is low risk, and with single ingredient foods, it’s much easier to know what you are getting. Most beans, grains and spices are good to go, but if you need something like trail mix, granola, or soup mix, you’ll want to find a version without high-risk ingredients, or choose a Non-GMO Project Verified option.
The products you find in boxes, cans and bottles in the center aisles of the store have the highest risk for containing GMOs. Corn, soy, canola and sugar beets show up on lots of ingredient panels, both in recognizable forms and also hiding in other, more processed ingredients. Your best bet with these types of foods is to look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label. For the gold standard in food quality and safety, look for products that also bear the organic label.
Just like packaged foods, supplements often contain many additives that are highly processed corn and soy derivatives. The food-based vitamin and supplement industry is working hard to increase transparency in their ingredient sourcing, and there is a growing list of Non-GMO Project Verified choices.
Buying local can help you steer clear of GMO foods. Not only are you supporting small farms and local vendors, you’re also more likely to choose foods that are consciously made, sourced or grown by farmers and artisans who choose not to use GMOs. If you aren’t sure about whether the local product you’re interested in contains GMOs, just ask! Local vendors are often happy to talk with their customers about how their products are made or grown.
Look for the butterfly throughout the store!