Let me just say my journey to try and avoid GMO food, grow some of my own food, and talking to the experts that are growing clean food is very time consuming. And without a farming, engineering, or bio-tech background, it’s a difficult task for a busy mom of four. But I find so many aspects of our food supply fascinating so although it’s taking up a lot of time with research, I’m really enjoying this new journey. When I can post something new I’ve learned quickly, it’s all going on the Mommy Footprint fan page – so if your not already following there, click here and like the page.
So the husk of corn on the cob is really the poster child for genetically modified food. This is a good thing and bad. With the high, high percentage of soy, corn, and sugar beets grown modified, someone can become pretty paranoid of any of these foods. But if you think that just not eating corn on the cob this summer keeps you free and clear of genetically modified food, this would be a mistake. I spent a bit of time last week talking to a produce manager and their food distributor which was interesting to me since I do so much of my shopping at the opposite spectrum of a traditional grocery store. I was in a traditional, chain grocery store to buy 1 ingredient for a recipe and a stack of corn on the cob caught my eye in the produce section. So I asked the produce Manager if the corn was genetically modified since it was from the US. This question led to many phone calls and discussions about the grocery store’s sourcing of produce. Basically, a chain grocery store will receive certification from the farms that tells them if the seed used to grow corn is GMO. In this case the corn also turned out to be non-GMO corn. Well – blow me down with a feather. I was actually really surprised. And also was surprised to learn that most of the GMO corn that is produced in North America actually goes into corn ingredients in food, rather than the actual fresh corn. I tell you this long story for 2 reasons. Don’t think that all fresh corn is GMO – ask questions and demand store Managers get you answers since items like zucchini and corn don’t come with an ingredient stamp like packaged food. And although I see lots of organic zucchini, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen organic corn. The 2nd reason for the rant/story is don’t be rocked into a sense of security that GMO food only exists in the whole form: an ear of corn, a block of soy, a sugar beet, or whole Papaya. These genetically modified foods are high yield and are probably included in the 80% packaged, processed foods we buy in super markets.
So vowing to not eat or feed your children GMO food is really wishful thinking. Sorry, but it’s true…especially if your family eats packaged food, meat, your kids are schooled outside of your home, they attend birthday parties/play dates, or eat at a restaurant. That is why once people start to understand the wide spread impact of GMOs they join marches, post information on Facebook to friends, and try to bring understanding to people new on the journey. Because it’s too scary a journey to take alone.
What other food items could possibly contain GMO corn besides the corn husks we see popping onto produce shelves in the summer? On this list of invisible GM ingredients I would assume the easiest way to detect GMO corn ingredients is to look for: corn flour, corn masa, corn meal, corn oil, corn sugar, corn syrup, cornstarch but then I learn that an ingredient for GM corn on a label is lactic acid most commonly found from dairy products. I’ll suppose this is because cow’s eat corn? Oh yeah…not confusing at all.
Another easy way to isolate GMO ingredients with packaged food is Soy (over 95% of soy is now manufactured from GM seed) and listed again in the invisible GM ingredients as: soy flour, soy isolates, soy lecithin, soy milk, soy oil, soy protein, soy protein isolate, soy sauce. But did you also know that soy can be detected in food as hydrolyzed vegetable protein which is a “flavour enhancer” used in processed foods like soups, chili, sauces, gravies, stews and some meat products like hot dogs. Look at the back of any packaged foods in your home right now – chances are you will see one of 3 ingredients that contains the words corn x, soy x, or canola oil. These are three of the largest ingredient triggers that you are eating GMO food.
The last biggie which is very difficult to wrap you mind around and is now pretty much 100% GMO manufactured are sugar beets. This means all refined sugar or mostly anything sweet in your cupboard, unless organic or labeled as using cane sugar, contains GM sugar beets. It’s easy to see why avoiding GMOs is very difficult, even if you purchase a lot of food organic. Other ways I find that help are to shop local and find trusted food sources. You might need to ask a lot of questions in the beginning but once the detective work is done…it’s done. You will know where to pickup local produce which is a better alternative than organic. A hidden food source that can be highly contaminated for several different reasons is meat. It’s probably the toughest food to find a cleaner source because you actually need to contact the farmer in charge of feeding the animals. Good luck if you are shopping at a conventional store. But this is much easier if you shop at a local butcher that can tell you where the meat comes from. You need to ask if the meat is ‘finished’ and what the grain is used to finish the meat. Keep in mind that alfalfa used to feed cattle in the US is now GMO. Canadians are hoping that our alfalfa stays non-GMO but that is currently at risk. Do the animals you eat consume corn in their feed? Are preservatives used to help with your meat’s shelf life? It’s these preservatives that are casting such a black cloud over processed meats like deli and hotdogs.
Another surprise for me is even though we don’t buy papaya, that doesn’t stop GM papaya appearing in our chewing gum, fruit snacks, fruit juices, etc. It’s another example of us hearing that paypayas have been grown genetically modified, but not stopped to think about the trickle effect into processed food. Can you completely stop GMO food from coming through your door, into your child’s body, into your own? It would be difficult and most everything you eat would need to be home-made. . . tough to do if your kids are in school. But you can become an ingredient reading, savvy consumer, that asks questions and is informed. And when you learn a product or brand only pumps out genetically modified food you can ban it from your home and find alternatives. It might take a year, but at the end of that 12 months, you’ll be healthier and more connected to the food you eat. You’ll probably be inspired to try growing some food yourself from heirloom, hybrid, or organic seed. And the further away you drift from the land of processed and back into the land of prepared or locally sourced, you will feed proud. And hopefully that you’ll be able to teach your family to eat healthier food until our government does something to protect it’s US and Canadian consumers. That is what other countries do. Do you know that Japan and Europe won’t accept Canadian Flax exports? They refuse to eat our modified crops. Here are some more facts I learned at a meeting in my neighboring community that is trying to ban GE food from being grown:
1) There are three GMOs projects actively in the works in Canada: GE Salmon, Arctic Apple (non browning) & GE Alfalfa
2) GE alfalfa is the most critical problem b/c meat crops (beef, etc.) consume it. GE alfalfa is already happening in the US! They are trying to get it into Canada and many feel it’s an attack on the organics industry.
3) Alfalfa doesn’t need heavy pesticides or genetically altered seeds b/c weeds aren’t an issue since these crops are used for cattle feed.
4) Canadian Flax crops are GE (genetically engineered). Japan and Europe will not longer accept Canadian Flax because of this.
5) 80% of GE crops are herbicide tolerant. BT crops produce a protein that is toxic to insects, butterflies, caterpillars.
6) Antibiotic resistance is essential to gene gun technology which is one of the two methods to cross DNA (therefore making a plant GMO). The concern is this will make humans resistant to antibiotics!
7) 40 weeds in Canada are now resistant to Roundup. Monsanto expected this to happen and has 2,4-D waiting in the wings for farmers to use. This is Agent Orange!!!!! 90% of corn in North America is GE. All sugar in stores is basically GE (unless it’s cane sugar) and over 90% of soy.
9) The Oregon GE wheat crop that popped up a few weeks ago is probably a Monsanto trial field; however that has now backfired as countries are now banning wheat exports from the US.
10) There have been no reduction in pesticide use as Monsanto promised – the opposite has happened. We are now becoming resistant to antibiotics b/c of eating the food, allergies are 400x greater because transgenes spread bacteria through our guts/intestines, and we are loosing our pollinators because of heavy herbicide use. And this fact is probably the scariest. If plants become sterile from all this messing around with mother nature, we are in big trouble.
Honestly, if genetically modified food isn’t freaking you out a little, it’s time to plug back into our food system and realize things are not okay. If you can’t look around and see a huge number of bee populations decreased in your community, there are big time stats that bees are suffering from colony collapses because of the amount of pesticides and insecticides that are released in communities with farming. The words from that now famous farmer from the Food Inc documentary ring true in my head. What ever the consumers demand – farmers will grow. If the government won’t protect us, let’s give our trust to the farmer’s themselves. Get to know them and trust them. Tell them that clean food is a priority and the ones growing it should be treated like well paid celebrities in our cities and towns. And yes, it’s just an endless journey but it’s something that small communities and consumers will need to win in North America. And no I don’t have all the answers – I honestly find something new in my pantry every week that contains GMO ingredients. Last week it was my baking powder – the word corn starch caught my eye. See what I mean about the corn husk being the poster child for GMO? It makes us not think powdered forms of food will contain it but wherever there are ingredients – you need to scan through at least for canola oil, vegetable oil, anything soy, corn, and sugar.