Want to Avoid GMO? Watch Out for These Foods

It’s tough to keep track of all the places where there has been a fight over genetically engineered foods and their role in our nation’s food system. There’s major food makers’ surprising embrace of GMO-free cereals—reaffirming breakfast’s reputation as the most important meal of the day. There have been some pricey campaigns waged for and against controversial labeling initiatives, to tell consumers more about what they’re buying. And a genetically modified salmon is swimming ever closer to FDA approval.

The jury’s out on whether GMO foods are healthy, but what’s not in question is that there are more of them. In 2012, nearly 70 million hectares of G.E. crops were planted in the U.S., up from 64 million hectares three years earlier.

Just as GMO ingredients are becoming more prevalent in our food system, so is consumer awareness. That’s why the Environmental Working Group—the folks behind the “Dirty Dozen” produce list—is launching the “2014 Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food” today.

The new guide makes suggestions for how to avoid G.E. food, lists the four most common G.E. ingredients in food today, and alerts you to what’s coming down the road.

If you’re interested in getting GMOs out of your diet and can’t wait for a federal labeling law to take effect, the new guide comes with how-tos, including recommendations of foods that carry a certified organic label or products that carry the now-familiar “Non-GMO Project Verified” logo.

There’s a lot to chew on. Until you have the right to know whether or not your food contains GMOs, here’s what EWG says should be on your radar right now.


According to the EPA, aspartame is a chemical that causes neurotoxicity. Keep in mind that that’s the United States Environmental Protection Agency — a government agency. Regardless, the FDA continues to rubber stamp its use.

Aspartame is made from aspartate, methanol, and phenylaline. Once ingested, the body breaks aspartame down into these constituent parts. Most notably, methanol is converted into formaldehyde. The US Department of Labor considers formaldehyde a toxic and hazardous substance that should not be ingested.
Recent research has demonstrated highly carcinogenic affects from aspartame consumption.

In the quest for healthy living, this toxic, lab-created chemical tops any list of foods and ingredients to avoid!


The agribusiness cartels have assured us for years of their products safety and the mainstream media have smiled and winked right alongside them. However, now, even MSN is now reporting that GMO corn may be toxic. Several studies have shown regular dietary consumption of Bt-corn (maize), the GMO version of corn, leads to serious health problems and negatively effects the kidney and liver (the dietary detoxifying organs), as well as in the heart, adrenal glands, and spleen.

Eating organic corn may be one way to eliminate exposure to this dangerous GMO. As you will see below, corn appears in many more forms, making avoidance an exercise in awareness.

Sugar Beets

Of the nearly 130 million metric tons of sugar produced globally every year, sugar beets constitute nearly 35% of that sugar (the remaining amount coming from sugar cane). These sugar beets are used to produce sucrose.

Unfortunately, they struggle to survive competition from weeds. So a glyphosate (Roundup) version was created. That way farmers could dump Roundup on the fields of sugar beets to kill off the weeds without killing the sugar beets. Great idea — in addition to the glyphosate DNA, the plants are repeatedly coated with toxic chemicals during their growing cycle.

The best way to avoid sugar beets is to avoid products with sucrose (sugar), or any product that doesn’t specify sweeteners like organic agave or raw honey.

HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)

First, HFCS is made from corn, which is likely to be a GMO strain. It then goes through a process that converts corn into corn starch…which then is converted into corn syrup in a process involving bacterial enzymes and fungus. Finally, another bacterial enzyme is added to the process to produce fructose. This is not a natural process and does not yield a natural product.

Mercury has been found in HFCS as a result of the manufacturing process. Does HFCS lead to health problems? Possibly, researchers from Princeton and Oxford have linked HFCS to weight gain and Type II diabetes.

To summarize, HFCS starts as a GMO, contains mercury, and has been linked to weight gain and Type II diabetes. Just avoid it.

Soy (lecithin)

Soy beans are perhaps one of the most prevalent GMO products in fields today. Soy has been associated with a wide range of health problems and GMO soy has been linked to pancreatic problems.

Soy lecithin isn’t even a choice soybean product, it’s a waste product from the processing of crude soy oil. It typically contains solvents and pesticides. Researchers have also found soy lecithin to contain allergens that have wide ranging health impacts.

As a rule, avoid soy unless it is organic and fermented (such as in miso or natto). And make sure to avoid anything containing soy lecithin, the soy product constructed from the sludgy glop created during the creation of soy oil.

Corn Starch

Corn starch is a highly processed corn product made from corn – genetically modified (GM) corn. It offers no nutritional value and carries all the dangers associated with GMO foods. It is used as an additive in many products and as a processed food, it creates digestive problems. The problems with corn starch have been known about since the 1970s. With the introduction of GMO corn, the problems have only increased.


When tested, genetically modified tomatoes have been found to have less antioxidant activity than their natural counterparts. As is the case with GMOs, the genetic modifications result in overall reduced nutritional value.


Most sausage contains corn syrup or corn syrup solids, in addition to the other preservatives. That’s right, the hot dog or Italian sausage you enjoy – even just once in a while – likely contains a GMO. If you choose to eat sausage of any type, avoid the pre-packaged kind. Your best bet is to purchase from a local butcher who specializes in locally grown, organic, free-range meats.

Ice Cream

This delicious summer-time treat typically features a range of HFCS, corn syrup and corn starch, plus rGBH. Unless the brand you buy is organic or home-made from organic ingredients, each spoonful of ice cream likely contains plenty of genetically-modified DNA and bovine growth hormones.


Non-organic and Synthetic Vitamins

Many vitamins, including top children’s vitamins, use ‘vegetable’ products as a base for the vitamin. Many of these ‘vegetables’ come from corn and soy products; many also contain aspartame and hydrogenate oils. Look for vitamins that are specifically organic or non-GMO.

Infant Formula

Milk that contains rGBH and genetically modified soy consitute the foundation for most infant formulas, unless they specifically state they are organic. Research has found that infant diets including formulas that contain these GMOs contribute to chronic, long-term health conditions.


Beef feed may contain GMO alfalfa, corn and soy. When cows eat GMOs, they get into their system and become part of the meat. If you’re going to eat beef, only consume organic, grass-fed beef.


Why let nature do things naturally when Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH) can be injected right cows to increase milk output. Never mind that hormones associated with rBGH have been found present in milk distributed for human consumption. Or that studies have also found milk from cows injected with rGBH contain reduced amounts of healthy fatty acids. Or that these cows are more likely to have mastitis, an utter infection that can lead to blood and pus in the milk. Yuck.

You can buy organic milk or goat milk and avoid bovine growth hormones. However, to keep all bovine growth hormones out of the diet, you also need to watch out for foods that contain milk products, as these may come from hormone-injected cows.


Although GMO alfalfa planting had been halted, as of this year, GM alfalfa returns to the fields. Alfalfa is the backbone of the dairy industry, both organic farmers and industry groups. So dairy, beef, and alfalfa will all be affected. As an insect pollinated plant, cross pollination of GMO plants and non-GMO plants will likely result.

Vegetable Oil

Vegetable Oil typically comes from corn, soybean, cotton, or canola oils. All of these crops have been genetically modified to withstand being doused by Roundup. Unless the vegetable oil states it is organic, assume it may contain some degree GMOs.

Canola Oil

Canola oil gets its own category due to its prevalent use. Aside from questions about an oil made from a plant toxic to human consumption, the rapeseed has been genetically altered. As of 2009, 90% of Canada’s rapeseed crop was ‘herbicide-tolerant’. When it comes to cooking oils, the best option is to find products specifically designated non-GMO.

Margarine and Shortening

These are another form of vegetable oil and contain all the GMO problems the vegetable oils contain. To avoid GMOs from margarine, organic butter may be an option.

Hawaiian Papaya

This type of genetically modified papaya primarily affects those living on the west coast. Its GMO attribute is that its a virus-resistant plant specific to Hawaii and the areas that import papaya from Hawaii. This plant contains DNA from the Ringspot virus, as do individuals who choose to eat it.


Many squash varieties have been genetically modified to fight off the diseases that can affect them. When it comes to squash, buy organic.


GMO flax has been grown (illegally, for what it’s worth) in Canada. The extent of Canadian contamination has not yet been determined. Reports also indicate that the GM flax has been exported around the world where contamination has occurred. Because of the environmental catastrophe of this rogue GM strain, identify the source of the flax used before you buy. Flax from Canada may be infected, as well as from many areas of the EU.

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