Environmental and consumer advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its 2014 guide to avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food. The full guide is available in hard copy to donors who give $10 or more to EWG, but highlights are available online, free.
EWG notes several reasons why American families may wish to avoid consuming GMOs, including personal health reasons such as concern about inadequate safety testing, as well as political reasons such as solidarity with agricultural workers exposed to increasing levels of carcinogenic and mutagenic pesticides. The group then notes a few easy ways to avoid GMOs in food, such as choosing only food with the USDA organic logo or choosing food with the Non-GMO Project's "verified" label. Foods certified organic by the USDA are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and are not genetically modified. Foods verified by the Non-GMO Project may not be organic, but they have been tested and verified as not containing more than 0.9 percent genetically modified ingredients, a level based on the standard used in the European Union for GMO labeling.
EWG also explains the major types of food ingredients that are likely to include GMOs, if not labeled USDA certified organic or Non-GMO Project "verified." These ingredients are:
- Corn: 90 percent of the corn grown in the US is GMO;
- Soy: 93 percent of the soybeans grown in the US are GMO;
- Sugar: 55 percent of the sugar produced in the US is from sugar beets (rather than cane sugar), and 95 percent of American-grown sugar beets are GMO;
- Vegetable oil: most vegetable oils come from GMO crops.
Although recent state GMO labeling initiatives here in the US have been defeated by intense lobbying efforts from Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (which includes processed food giants such as Pepsi and General Mills), many countries around the world do require foods containing GMOs to be labeled. Until American states pass GMO labeling requirements, the EWG guide will be a useful tool for families aiming to reduce their exposure to glyphosate and to support more sustainable methods of agriculture.