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5 Essential Ways to Avoid Genetically-Modified Food (GMOs)

5 Essential Ways to Avoid Genetically-Modified Food (GMOs)

Recently, I got an e-mail from a reader asking how she would know if she is eating genetically-modified soy or not. Figuring that many other people may have that same question, I wanted to explain how to avoid eating genetically-modified food (GMOs) and the things that you need to look out for. #1 – Buy […]

Getting Started with Organic GMO Health The Center for Food Safety

Recently, I got an e-mail from a reader asking how she would know if she is eating genetically-modified soy or not.

Figuring that many other people may have that same question, I wanted to explain how to avoid eating genetically-modified food (GMOs) and the things that you need to look out for.


#1 – Buy USDA Certified Organic Products  GMOs are prohibited in organic food. Therefore, look for products that contain the USDA certified organic seal.

Even though GMOs are prohibited in organic, organic crops can be contaminated by GMOs through cross-pollination and drift. (That is why the proliferation of GMOs is a real threat to organic farming. The co-existence of GM-crops and organic crops is simply not possible, despite what our government would like us to believe.)

USDA rules require that organic certifiers test samples from at least 5% of the operations they certify on an annual basis.

#2 – Buy Non-GMO Project Verified Products  There is an independent, third-party organization called the Non-GMO Project.


This entity does field testing on every base ingredient in a product and does not allow any of its verified products to contain more than 0.9% of genetically-modified ingredients. Since GMOs are so widespread, it is nearly impossible to find something that is 100% GMO-free, and this 0.9% is the same standard that Europe uses as well.

A few important things of note here:

* When it comes to detecting GMOs, the Non-GMO Project utilizes a much more rigorous process than the one employed by the USDA’s National Organic Program. So, if you can buy a product that is USDA certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, that is the best of both worlds.

* The Non-GMO Project does not account for super-toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and other substances prohibited in USDA certified organic products. Its objective is to identify genetically-modified ingredients.

That is why I will always choose USDA certified organic over Non-GMO Project Verified.

* Many products are labeled as “Non-GMO”. Yet, if it is not Non-GMO Project Verified, how do you know that it is in fact Non-GMO?

You don’t.

But if you know what the high-risk GM-crops are, you will have a much better idea if it is Non-GMO or not.

#3 – Understand the High Risk GM-Crops  In the U.S., there are five main crops that are incredibly high risk of being genetically-modified. If they’re not USDA certified organic, it is almost a near guarantee that they are GM.

The five high risk crops and the estimated percent that are genetically-modified:

Corn – (91%)

Canola – (90%)

Cotton – (90%)

Sugar Beets – (95%)

Soy – (94%)

Also, more than 50% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically-modified, and there are over 24,000 acres that grow GM-zucchini and GM-yellow squash. Genetically-modified sweet corn is a very new product and is not widespread just yet, so just to be on the safe side, always try to buy organic sweet corn.

#4 – Understand the High-Risk Derivative Ingredients   There are many ingredients, or products, derived from high-risk crops that you need to know about, and they are sometimes referred to as “invisible” genetically-modified ingredients. Some of them include:

Corn – Corn flour, corn gluten, corn masa, corn starch, corn syrup, cornmeal, High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), and sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose.

Soy – Soy flour, soy protein, soy isolates, soy isoflavones, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, tamari, tempeh, and soy protein supplements.

Sugar Beets – Sugar not specified as 100% cane sugar is likely from GM-sugar beets.

Cotton – Cottonseed oil

Canola – Canola oil (also called rapeseed oil)

Vegetable oil, vegetable fat and margarines can be made from soy, corn, cottonseed, and/or canola.

Click HERE for a complete list of other “invisible” GM-ingredients.

#5 – Avoid Animal Products That May Have Been Exposed to GMOs  If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, consuming non-organic animal products carries real risks. Here’s why.

* Non-organic dairy products may have come from cows who have been injected with the GM-hormone recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Please read this post on why organic milk is a MUST, especially for kids.

* Non-organic animal products, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, may have come from animals that have eaten GM-feed.

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  • Anónimoes mu tardado si tienes una emergencia o algo demasiado importante no te sirve cuando quieres enviar el mensaje … es para ya pero por este medio imposible el servicio es decadente lentooo.

  • I’ll immediately grab your rss as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  •  Taking care of others around you is just important as taking care of yourself.  Read Kate Scarlata’s lovely story about how It Takes a Village to raise a family, and the importance of nurturing

  • Kerri Rossi says:

    I usually buy organic Tamari sauce at Whole Foods or use Braggs a minis which have a soy sauce like taste.

  • Jeff R says:

    I eat a lot of rice, maybe too much. I have asked and asked but can’t seem to find out if there is a such thing as ‘organic soy sauce’. Your article listed several soy products, without actually mentioning soy sauce. I am holding out on the hope that soy sauce is somehow produced is such a way as to make it safe to use? I will stop using it if it turns out there is not non-GMO source. Do they make organic soy sauce?

    • Jane Birkenstock says:

      San-J makes Organic Tamari Gluten Free Soy sauce that is Non-GMO Project Verified. It is also Certified Vegan, USDA Organic and Certified Organic by Quality Assurance International. It has no artificial preservatives or additives.

      The ingredient label states: water, organic soybeans, salt, organic alcohol (to preserve freshness. Contains 700 mg of sodium per serving compared to 940 mg to regular Tamari soy sauce. All the above information is on the bottle label.

      I called the company to determine where the soy came from for this product. I was told it came from Japan. The company also stated that they were now testing their product for radiation. The company phone number in the US is (800) 446-5500. I purchased this product at Whole Foods but have seen it in several other grocery stores.

  • appreciate the info says:

    Thanks soooo much for this important information its very good to know

  • Anna Jane says:

    Hey Max,

    It’s a nice and useful post. I agree with all your points regarding how to avoid Genetically Modified Food but I would like to mention why people have to avoid GMO food.

    Human Health Risk and Environmental Hazards these two are big reasons to avoid GMO Food.

  • Dee Doanes says:

    Great article Max. It’s a shame that these companies and traditional agriculture businesses don’t care about the long term affects of GMOs on animals, insects, and humans. GMOs deplete the soil of the necessary nutrients that allow all of us to be healthy. No wonder people develop allergies, digestion problems, and other chronic health issues.People need to start doing permaculture gardening in their backyards or going to organic co-ops to get healthy food

  • Thank you for publishing this. There’s a lot of consumer confusion out, much if it fueled by miss-information. I will say that your statement that the Non-GMO-Project is more rigorous than USDA Organic is different from my experience. I’ve been a certified organic farmer for 18 years and have a food packaging company that bottles specialty foods (Food For Thought and Esch Road Foods). I have both certified organic products and Non-GMO Project verified products in our lines. In my experience, Organic is still the most rigorous by far. We undergo annual audits by an outside inspector that tracks our entire paper trail and production records to verify that no non-compliant ingredients are not purchased or used. Non-GMO Project undertakes a paper audit, meaning we submit paperwork from our ingredient suppliers or my farm. They do not visit our facility or farm and do not require ingredient samples for testing.
    Perhaps they do some random testing, but in our case we have yet to be chosen for such a test. I will say that their paper audit is very thorough. I think both programs are valuable and offer consumers a high level of assurance that products with those labels meet the standards.
    With kind regards,
    Timothy Fitzgerald Young
    Founder/Food For Thought, Inc.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Timothy,

      Thanks so much for your comment. Feedback from someone like yourself is very helpful.

      Live well,

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