With the failure in November 2012 of California’s Proposition 37 and the recent announcement by Whole Foods to put GMO labels on all products sold in their stores by 2018, the term GMO has become a hot topic in the news. With all this coverage, you might be wondering what GMO means, why it is so controversial, and why you should be concerned about it.
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism” and means that the DNA of that organism, be it plant or animal, has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. This is different from crossbreeding, which is when two closely related species are interbred. Genetic modification of food is done by taking a specific gene from one species and putting it into the DNA of another with the hope that it will produce a desired trait, such as taking the gene from a cold-water fish that allows it to thrive in freezing temperatures and splicing it into the DNA of a tomato. Therefore, GM organisms could never be produced in nature, and unlike crossbreeding, which has been practiced for centuries by farmers without negative effects to human health, genetic modification is a new technology with unforeseen, and possibly destructive, consequences.
Large GMO corporations, such as Mansanto, boast a wide range of benefits from using GM foods, ranging from health, to environmental, to economic. However, there is little research on the impact of consuming GMO products, mostly because the FDA does not require these foods to be labeled or tested for safety, and most of the research being done is funded by these corporations. Closer inspection now shows that most Monsanto’s claims are unfounded, and have even been criticized by third-party investigators.
Today, over 80% of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMO products. The crops that are most likely to be GMO include corn, canola, flax, soy, rice, papaya, sugar beets, alfalfa, and zucchini, as well as the ingredients derived from these plants, with a large list including canola oil, high-fructose corn syrup, and both natural and artificial flavorings.
With the pervasiveness of these products in supermarkets and the severe lack of impartial research, government regulation, and product labeling, how can you protect yourself from these potentially harmful products? You can buy organic, which, by law, cannot contain GMOs. However, this is not fool-proof because the law does not require testing to ensure that these products are GMO-free. Your best bet is to look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization focused on making sure that information concerning GMO products is substantiated and accessible to the general public. They have taken it upon themselves to label foods that they have verified as containing less than 0.9% GMO products. For ease when shopping, there is a list of all the brands currently verified through the non-GMO project that can either be printed or downloaded as an iPhone App.
Since soy products are a staple in most vegan diets, but have a high risk of being GMO, we have compiled a list of 7 verified GMO-free tofu and and soy-based meat alternative products to help you make an informed soy purchase.
Nasoya is conveniently found in most supermarkets, stocking the shelves with a multitude of tofu options, from silken to extra firm, along with sprouted and cubed varieties. Their tofus are certified organic, have no preservatives, and are GMO free. Nasoya is also committed to both sourcing their soybeans from producers who use conservation practices and to creating environmental initiatives to limit waste.