Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs (sometimes referred to as GM foods), are at the center of heated debates about the environment, human health, animal health, food ethics…the list goes on. For a quick read on the issues surrounding GMOs, click here.

If you would like to avoid GMO ingredients and foods, here’s a list of nine foods that probably contain GMOs, and are, therefore, maybe not as healthy as you thought they were.

1. Vitamins.

Rounding out any diet sometimes means taking some supplements, or maybe your doctor has told you you’re low in a certain vitamin or mineral. Careful; many vitamins are sourced from GMOs, and even the fillers and additives may be as well. For more info, read up here.

2. Papayas.

Few fruits are genetically modified, but generally the easiest way to avoid GM foods is to buy organic. The big offender is papaya from Hawaii, as 50% of papayas from Hawaii are GMOs.

3. Alfalfa.

The use of alfalfa as animal feed is a hugely important current affair, as many believe that cross-contamination of alfalfa will mean that even organic crops will one day be contaminated by the GM plants. To read a more in-depth article on this issue, click here.

4. Vegetable oil.

Unless your veggie oil says it’s organic, it’s probably a GMO. Vegetable oil is sourced from corn, soy bean, and canola oils, which have all been altered to be resistant to round-up pesticides, which definitely would not fall in the category of “healthy”. For info on pesticides, read up here93% of canola in the US is a GE crop, to avoid this, once again, buy organic.

5. Squash.

Many varieties of squash, including zucchini, have been altered to fight off diseases, so being careful when purchasing these delicious fall foods might be a good idea. These new variety of squashes are the favorite food of cockroaches, and are considered to be a danger in regards to new pathogens and bacterial diseases.

6. Margarine.

Margarine is, of course, made from vegetable oils. Margarine is chosen frequently as a health or vegan option, but be careful. It’s a highly processed food, so sneaking in a GMO is easy. To avoid this, look for products that are %100 percent organic, and read up. For info on cooking with fats, look at One Green Planet’s advice right here.

7. Veggie burgers.

Veggie burgers are no-doubt a lovely vegetarian/vegan alternative to this commonly-found food, but many of them are probably containing GM soy. This is of course a problem with any processed food; it’s hard to know what’s really in that super long, hard to pronounce list of ingredients. If you would like to explore the world of vegan burgers and not worry about what might be hiding in the package, buy organic, or even better, try making your own! Click here for a list of great recipes.

8. Bread.

Of course, to many, bread and baked-goods might not fall into a “healthy foods” category, but even store-bought whole wheat, multi-grain, high fibre “healthy” breads could contain GMOs. Flours tend to be GM free, so that’s not where the danger lies. Many breads bought in stores have additives, soy products, and maize as sneaky added ingredients. For information, check out what the GMO compass has to say, or, when in doubt, taking things into your own hands and making your own food is always a safe option. Whether you’re a vegan, eating gluten free, or prefer certain flours, this list certainly has something for you.

9. Breakfast cereals.

Many breakfast cereals are hiding sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and soy products that are likely all GM crops. Buying a breakfast cereal can already be super daunting, what with the ridiculous amount of “healthy” labeling all over the boxes that generally fill an entire grocery store isle, and adding looking for GMOs to the to-look-for list will only add stress. It’s easiest to just know what to buy, so check out this list here.

The best way to avoid all of these? As repeated any times above, buy organic and look for product labels that state that ingredients are GM food-free. Labeling of GMOs is not required in the United States, but many companies that are opposed to their usage declare themselves as such to allow consumers to make informed choices. In order to check, or if you’d like to have a general idea of what to look for in stores, the Non-GMO project has lists of verified ingredients for every type of food imaginable.

*Correction: this post previously contained incorrect information on tomatoes, potatoes, and bananas. GM tomatoes and potatoes are no longer permitted in the United States, and while there are trials being done on bananas, they are not available in the U.S. either. 

Image Source: Kelly/Flickr