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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

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 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.

#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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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

Don’t Be Influenced By Pretty-Looking Organic Egg Cartons

Whether you’re new to organic or have been eating it for decades, here is a very likely scenario when you go to buy eggs.

You stand in the refrigerated section of the market, look at all of options, check out the prices and make a decision largely based on the packaging of each brand.

Some have attractive pictures of rolling farmland, others show actual farmers, some have photos of the animals. Most certainly, the brands are using buzz words such as “cage-free”, “sunlit porches”, “omega 3-s” or “heritage breed”.

Are these brands being falsely deceptive?

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A message from Tradin Organic

How Tradin Organic is Helping Coconut Farmers in The Philippines

For more than a decade, Tradin Organic has been working with local partners in The Philippines to bring a diversified range of organic products to the market, such as coconut oil, tropical fruits and even cocoa.

The company is helping to support local farmers by assisting them with technical support and organic certification, in addition to paying Fairtrade premium on top of the organic premium.

Learn more.

Living Maxwell

Better Choices

New to Organic? – Start with This Inexpensive Breakfast

One question that I get a lot is “How should a person get started with organic food?” One complaint I hear a lot is that organic food costs too much.

Let me both answer this question and address this complaint with a story.

Last week, Brian, a new friend of mine, came to me for some food-related advice. He wanted to know what he could be doing to eat healthier, as he was “crashing” in the middle of the afternoon. Brian was very concerned that his eating habits were negatively impacting his ability to perform at work, which would impact his ability to make money.

He did not know much about organic and was very concerned about the price. When I started talking about organic food, the first words out of his mouth were “Hey, I don’t make $20,000 per month.”

Brian went on to tell me about the fast-food breakfasts that he had been eating and he didn’t think it was the cause of his problem.

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Living Maxwell

Better Choices

Another Reason to Support Organic – The 59 Pesticide Residues Found in Our Water Supply

When people talk about organic food, we mostly focus on the importance of eating food that is free of synthetic chemicals, genetically-modified ingredients and artificial growth hormones.

Yet, what we also need to be mentioning is that conventionally-grown food means that our soil is getting sprayed with an astronomical amount of toxic pesticides, which ends up polluting our public water supply.

According to the EPA, we use about 1.1 billion pounds of chemicals per year, 80% of which are used for agricultural purposes.

And what impact has this had on the quality of our public water supply?

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livingmaxwell: a guide to organic food & drink