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How much do you know about the food you eat? Consumers are starting to open their eyes and taking a stand on the blinds the FDA (U.S Food and Drug Administration) and companies like Nestle, Bertoli, General Mills, and Pepperidge Farms try to pull on us.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are present in the vast majority of processed foods found in most stores around the country. The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that between 75% and 80% of all processed foods available on grocery store shelves contain GMOs.
Recently there have been so many cases in the United States cracking down on the amount of GMOs that goes into our food, fish markets selling “fake fish” in New York City and even the most recent case of 15-year-old Sarah Kavanagh who started a petition against PepsiCo against the drink Gatorade.
The New York Times reported that Ms. Kavanagh, a dedicated vegetarian, read the label while drinking Gatorade and one peculiar ingredient caught her eye; vegetable oil. This pushed her to do further research and then she decided to start a petition on Change.org that has almost 200,000 signatures already. Her campaign is a way to persuade companies like PepsiCo to consider changing the drink’s formulation.
Brominated vegetable oil contains bromine, an element contained in things like upholstered furniture and children’s products. Research has found that a build-up of this element in both human and animals can cause “neurological impairment, reduced fertility, changes in thyroid hormones and puberty at an earlier age.”
Despite this, brominated vegetable oil has been deemed safe for consumption by federal regulators, says The New York Times.
Up to 10% of drinks sold in the United States contain brominated vegetable oil, including Mountain Dew, Powerade, Fanta Orange, Squirt and Sunkist Peach Soda.
“B.V.O. is banned other places in the world, so these companies already have a replacement for it,” Ms. Kavanagh told The New York Times. “I don’t see why they don’t just make the switch.” To that, companies say the switch would be too costly.
Currently in the United States, companies are not required to tell you if there are GMOs in the food they sell. Food companies can basically put whatever they chose to in your food. As long as it is “said” to be safe, they will use it without your knowledge.
Toonari Post contacted Nature Valley, a product of General Mills, by email and phone to ask why they use GMOs but claims on their website and Facebook page, “No matter how many flavors we create, they’re all made like the first, from wholesome, delicious ingredients. That way you can be assured that with Nature Valley you’re always getting The Taste Nature Intended.”
Amy Sadowski, Consumer Services representative for Nature Valley responded by email, ” For that reason, the FDA does not require special labeling for it. Because of the growing use of biotechnology by farmers and the way that grain gets commingled in storage and shipment, it′s certainly possible that some of our products may contain ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology. We can assure you, though, that every major regulatory agency, as well as independent scientific groups like the American Medical Association, has concluded that these ingredients are safe. General Mills also believes in providing consumers with a variety of food options. Toward that end, we do offer organic products that, by definition, do not use ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology. Please look for organic Gold Medal flour and a wide range of products from our Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen brands.”
So how can you protect yourself from food with GMOs and false organic labeling claims?
Avoiding corn and soy products that are not explicitly labeled as 100% Organic is a good first step in avoiding GMOs. According to the USDA Organic Program standards, organic foods cannot contain any genetically modified organisms. However, a company can still market a product as being made from organic ingredients while using some GMOs. If it is not labeled as being 100% organic, then it is likely to only contain a mixture of organic and non-organic agricultural ingredients.
You can also log on to Facebook and like the Label It Yourself page to see what foods to avoid.
In the end, there is no certifiable, authoritative, or inclusive list of foods that absolutely contain GMOs. The best thing to do is read before you eat, make the choice to shop at a local “mom and pop” organic health food store or shop at your local farmer’s market to play it safe.