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What are genetically-modified foods?

The term GM foods or GMOs (genetically-modified organisms) is most commonly used to refer to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques. These plants have been modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content. The enhancement of desired traits has traditionally been undertaken through breeding, but conventional plant breeding methods can be very time consuming and are often not very accurate. Genetic engineering, on the other hand, can create plants with the exact desired trait very rapidly and with great accuracy. For example, plant geneticists can isolate a gene responsible for drought tolerance and insert that gene into a different plant. The new genetically-modified plant will gain drought tolerance as well. Not only can genes be transferred from one plant to another, but genes from non-plant organisms also can be used.

Why avoid GMO foods?

Genetic modification of foods started out innocently enough, as a way to make foods that were more robust, flavorful, inexpensive and available. But the outcome of releasing so many GMO foods has become a major public health concern. People have been taking better care of themselves in every other way, such as exercising, eating fresh vegetables and lean proteins, and drinking plenty of purified bottled water. Why not take some responsible next steps toward buying only USDA-organic produce from local farmer’s markets. Start organic gardening of your own and you will avoid the ill effects of genetic modification.

Steering clear of GMO foods completely may be difficult, but some foods are worse than others. Keep this list handy and do your best to avoid the following high-GMO content foods.

What are the worst GMO foods?

1. Corn – One of the most commonly modified foods, U.S. farms are known for growing crops for companies like Monsanto, much of which is earmarked for human consumption. This type of corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain.

2. Soy – Often found in vegetarian products such as tofu, soybeans are also used to make flour, oil and fillers. Biotech giants still have a tight grasp on the soybean crops, which means that most of these crops are genetically engineered to resist herbicides.

3. Sugar – Genetically modified sugar beets are also genetically modified to resist herbicides, which have become a controversial issue with the USDA.

4. Aspartame – Often considered a toxic additive to diet sodas and food products, aspartame should be avoided because it is made from genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas – Since 1999, genetically modified papayas have been grown in Hawaii for public consumption. Because of their GMO qualities they are not sold in the European Union, but they are often found throughout the United States and Canada.

6. Canola – One of the most commonly modified foods in the American diet, canola oil is derived from rapeseed through a complicated chemical process.

7. Dairy – Most dairy products contain growth hormones, because nearly 20 percent of all dairy cows are being fed hormones every day. If you drink milk, consider buying organic.

8. Squash – Varieties of squash such as zucchini and yellow squash are often modified to resist viruses.

Staying healthy was once a simple matter of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of purified water, and exercising regularly. But good health requires a little more diligence these days. With so little regulation and so few safety tests performed on genetically modified foods, it is more important than ever to be aware of the risks of GMO foods.

Whole Foods Market announces labeling of non-GMO products

Earlier this month, Whole Foods announced that suppliers will have five years to comply with their new GMO labeling policy, which requires all products to be include GMO data on the ingredients label. This includes the use of any genetic material that has been modified through engineering, or “Genetically Modified Organisms.” The company says this decision was made in response to consumer demand and some grassroots action committees who were pushing for more transparent labeling.

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