If you walk into any grocery store in the United States, you have a pretty good idea of what you’ll find. Bins of fresh produce. A cold cereal display. Maybe an express checkout lane reserved for shoppers buying 15 items or less. What you probably won’t see is labels identifying genetically modified organisms.
More than half the nation has legislation on the table that will require companies to label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. But until then, it can be difficult navigating those grocery store aisles if you’re trying to avoid GMOs. So how can you be sure you’re keeping them out of your diet?
Founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology and GMO expert Jeffrey Smith says the first sure way to avoid GMOs is to go organic.
But, “not everyone has access to organic, not everyone can afford it,” says Smith.
Which leads to the second way.
“There’s a third-party verification called Non-GMO Project and you’ll find a little seal called Non-GMO Project Verified on thousands of products in stores that are natural food stores and many of the products in supermarkets.”
You can also find a list of the products that are verified by the Non-GMO Project on nongmoshoppingguide.com.
“There’s over 30,000 of them,” Smith says. “Also on that site, there’s a list of hidden or invisible ingredients.”
Which is especially helpful since there are so many different derivatives that come from the nine major genetically modified crops.
“Soy, corn, cotton … is a food product, cottonseed oil, canola, canola oil, sugar beets, not the red beets that you buy and eat, they’re sugar beets used for sugar and more than 50 percent of the sugar in the United States is from sugar beets. And all of them are genetically engineered.”
Also on the list: “Alfalfa, used as hay for animals … Papaya from Hawaii or China. Some zucchini. Some yellow squash.”
And because animal feed is mostly genetically modified in the United States, most milk, meat and eggs are GMO-related.
“Unless,” Smith explains, “the animals are raised organically in the wild, like wild fish, or game, or 100 percent grass-fed without any alfalfa that’s genetically engineered.”
As the fight for food measures that require labeling continues, Smith says the Institute for Responsible Technology and consumers who buy Non-GMO Project Verified items exclusively are making some headway.
“In 2013, the Whole Foods president announced that when a product becomes third-party verified, it increases sales by 15-30 percent. Thousands of products were quickly enrolled because no one wanted to lose sales to their competitor with a non-GMO label,” Smith says. “So, we are now creating a plan to eliminate GMOs based on consumer buying habits as well as some other research that we need to do.”
Which means you might see those labels in your grocery store sooner than you think.