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Tag: gmo labeling

Where GMOs Hide and Why Labeling Is Important for Consumers

At an elegant fundraising event last night, my husband cornered one of our Republican state representatives and asked where she stood on the GMO labeling initiative coming up before Colorado voters next month. “I’m firmly against it,” she declared, “because I think GMOs might be needed in order for us to have enough food in the future.”


Slide11This debate is not about should there be GMOs available to to grow or not. No legislation is looking at whether or not tinkering with nature and our food supply is a good idea: that train has already left the station.

Rather, it is about individuals having the right and ability to know which foods contain GMOs and then having the individual choice of whether to choose to eat that or not. This is a case of personal rights to transparency and choice vs. corporate cloaking and profits.

I’m re-printing an entire article below about recent testing by non-biased Consumer Reports for GMOs in our food supply because I think it provides a good overview for those who still might be confused as to why we might need to monitor food suppliers in this way.

New Consumer Reports’ tests find genetically modified organisms in many packaged foods—including those labeled ‘natural’

More than 70 percent of Americans say they don’t want genetically modified organisms in their food, according to a recent Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 1,000 adults. The trouble is, it’s hard to avoid them.

Consumer Reports’ tests of breakfast cereals, chips, soy infant formulas, and other popular products found that GMOs lurk in many packaged foods—including some that carry labels suggesting that they don’t have these controversial ingredients.

In more than 60 countries, manufacturers must label foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. But GMO labeling isn’t required in the U.S. Yet our survey found that 92 percent of Americans want genetically modified foods to be labeled. And concerns about the potential health and environmental risks of GMOs coupled with an unwillingness on the part of the federal government to mandate labeling are leading many states to take action on their own.

Vermont recently passed legislation requiring GMO labeling, and similar actions are being considered in more than two

dozen other states, including Colorado and Oregon, where residents will begin voting on a GMO-labeling ballot initiative in late October. “Federal law already requires labeling that lets consumers know whether foods have been previously frozen, made from concentrate, pasteurized, or irradiated, and we believe the label should also say if food is genetically engineered,” says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.

What are GMOs, anyway?

Genetically modified organisms are created by deliberately changing the genetic makeup of a plant or animal in ways that could never occur in nature. The majority of GMO crops currently on the market have been genetically engineered to produce their own pesticides and/or withstand herbicides that normally would kill them. Farmers use the herbicides to control weeds.

Safety concerns

You may be surprised to know that the federal government has not mandated that genetically modified organisms be proved safe before they’re used in your food. But safety assessments are mandatory in other major developed countries, including China, Japan, and the countries of the European Union. Some animal studies suggest that GMOs may cause damage to the immune system, liver, and kidneys. “There hasn’t been enough research to determine whether GMOs are harmful to people,” says Michael Hansen, Ph.D., senior scientist at Consumers Union and an authority on genetic engineering. “But scientists around the world agree that GMOs have the potential to introduce allergens and create other unintended changes that may affect health.”

The use of genetically modified seeds has steadily grown over the last two decades. That has led to about a 10-fold increase in farmers’ use of glyphosate, a weedkiller better known as Roundup, which is made by Monsanto—a company that also produces genetically modified seeds—because the herbicide won’t harm their GMO crops. But that in turn has created a new  problem for farmers to battle: a rising number of “superweeds” that have now become immune to glyphosate. “This defeats one of the major reasons why GMOs were introduced in the first  place,” Hansen says.

The food industry’s take

Companies that produce genetically modified organisms and their allies in the food industry argue that genetic  engineering is just an extension of traditional breeding, which humans have been doing for thousands of years. But that process involves the transfer of DNA between closely related plants or animals. Genetic engineering techniques, on the other hand, move genetic material from any organism to  any other organism.

There is fierce opposition to GMO labeling from many seed manufacturers and big food companies, which have spent nearly $70 million in California and Washington state alone to defeat GMO-labeling ballot initiatives. One of the major arguments they make is that stamping foods with a statement such as “contains GMO ingredients” implies that those foods are inferior to other conventional or organic foods when there’s no evidence that genetically modified organisms are harmful. “Our position is that GMO foods should be labeled, period,” Halloran says. “Consumers have the right to know what’s in their food so that they can make informed choices.” (Learn what you can do to support mandatory GMO labeling.)

GMOs are found in surprising places

GMO labeling should be required in the U.S., but in the  meantime some food manufacturers are choosing not to  use genetically modified ingredients and are noting that on their products’ packaging. To see how many foods have GMOs and whether you can trust the claims you see on food packages, we bought more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy between April and July 2014. (Corn and soy are the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the U.S.) We tested at least two samples of each product, each sample from a different lot, to measure the GMO content. Then we compared our results with any non-GMO-related claims.

Find a list of all the products we tested in our full report from Consumer Reports.

Genetically modified corn and soy are used in a wide variety of foods. Nearly all of the samples we tested of the products that did not make any non-GMO-related claim on the package did, in fact, contain substantial amounts of genetically modified corn or soy. They included many familiar foods, such as Kellogg’s Froot Loops, General Mills Corn Chex, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, Doritos Oven Baked Nacho Cheese chips, and Boca Original Vegan Veggie Burgers. Four of the products in this group were soy-based infant formulas: Enfamil ProSobee Soy Infant Formula, Gerber Good Start Soy, Similac Soy Isomil, and Similac Go & Grow Soy Infant formula.

Because our tests represented only a small slice of the  market, we can’t draw conclusions about all products containing corn or soy, or about every product for a given brand. But until genetically modified organism labeling becomes mandatory, our test results can help you decode the meaning behind the claims you see on grocery store shelves.

Organic claims

This indicates that a third party has certified that the product complies with USDA Organic guidelines, which forbid the use of genetically modified organisms. Our tests found that products with organic ingredients—such as Amy’s All American Veggie Burgers, 365 Everyday Value Organic Corn Tortillas, and Soy Dream Vanilla Frozen Dessert—qualified as non-GMO. Many of the products that make organic claims also make some kind of non-GMO claim on their packaging.

Non-GMO Project Verified seal

All of the products we tested with this seal qualified as non-GMO. That means the product had no more than 0.9 percent genetically modified organisms. (In EU countries, products that have ingredients that contain more than 0.9  percent genetically modified organisms are required by law to carry GMO labeling.) The Non-GMO Project certifies  manufacturers’ products through third-party testing. Among the products we tested that carried this seal were Post Grape Nuts Original cereal and Silk Original soymilk.

Uncertified non-GMO claims

These claims made by the manufacturer—which may include the words “No GMO” and “Non-GMO”—have no standard definition and don’t require independent verification. Even so, most of the products we tested containing nonorganic corn or soy that made  an uncertified claim met non-GMO standards. These included Clif Builder’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar and Bob’s Red Mill Golden Corn Flour.

The exception was Xochitl Totopos de Maiz original corn  chips. The package read “No GMO” and “All Natural.” But our tests showed that the amount of genetically modified corn in the six samples we tested averaged more than 75 percent. The manufacturer said it uses corn from a supplier that provided test results with many of the deliveries Xochitl received  indicating that the corn was non-GMO. When we tested samples from two packages of Xochitl Totopos de Maiz Organic White Corn Chips, which were also labeled “No GMO,” we found that the product met non-GMO standards.

Natural claims

More than 60 percent of people in our national survey said they believed that “Natural” means “No GMOs.” But that’s not what our tests found. Virtually all of the samples we tested of products that made only a “Natural” claim did have a  substantial amount of GMOs, although since we did our testing some manufacturers have removed the “natural” claim or have become Non-GMO Project Verified.

“The confusing nature of this claim is just one reason we are asking the government to ban the use of ‘natural’ labels on food,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., director of the safety and sustainability center at Consumer Reports.

—Andrea Rock

Take action

If you’re in favor of genetically modified organism labeling efforts and you live in Oregon or Colorado, your vote this fall obviously can communicate that message. Those who live elsewhere can contact their state legislators to express their support for mandatory labeling. This is especially important if you live in one of the more than 30 states that have legislation pending on this issue.

You also can contact your Congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., to urge them to support the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, a federal bill calling for mandatory labeling that has been introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon).

And for more information on GMO food and updates on labeling, go

to or Consumer Reports.

Published: October 2014

Label Genetically Altered Foods: It’s the Right Thing To Do

If you live in Washington State, you sit at an historic crossroads with I-522, the GMO labeling initiative.

The opponents of I-522 have spent almost $22 million to deny you of your right to know – more has been spent trying to defeat this than ever for any other ballot initiative in Washington State.

The state attorney general charges that the NO on I-522 campaign has illegally concealed more money than any other group ever accused of violating Washington’s campaign finance laws.

If Genetically Modified foods are so great, why wouldn’t manufacturers want to trumpet that from the label?

Without labeling, we will be kept in the dark about the contents of our foods. A victory for I-522, on the other hand, will likely spread GMO labeling across the country pretty quickly.

Don’t believe the lies that $22 million is purchasing on the airwaves. Vote YES on I-522.

GMO Labeling Efforts: What Now?

With the election now behind us, it is a bummer to see that Prop 37, the proposal which would have required Genetically Modified foods to be labeled as such, failed in gmos

It’s not surprising that this grass-roots-led effort failed, as corporate interests spent $45-50 million dollars to defeat it. Who had these deep pockets and the desire to keep consumers in the dark about what they are eating because GMO labeling might cut into their profits or require them to re-think how they source their ingredients? Let’s name some names: Monsanto, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, General Mills, DuPont, Bayer and other food and pesticide companies.

The best thing that came out of the Prop 37 fight is the rise in consumer awareness about what are GMOs and why we might want to have the choice to eat them or not. Too  many of us now know the dangers and can choose to opt ourselves out of this massive experiment with the public health by trying to avoid GM contamination in conventional corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash. Since these crops have almost 90% or higher saturation of GM seeds, and almost everything you see that contains these products or their derivatives will be Genetically Modified, these items should form the core of you “Always Buy Organic” shopping list.
Watch out for the hidden GM sources in packaged foods like high fructose corn syrup, Aspartame, and animal products from animals fed GM feed.

What can we do now to continue to work for at least labeling of GMOs?

We can encourage President Obama to replace the current head of the FDA, Michael Taylor, formerly of Monsanto, with someone less corporate-friendly without ties to Monsanto and their GMO-interests, and more concerned with the public health.
And we can continue to vote with our dollars by choosing non-GMO foods over GM foods.

The Non-GMO Project and GMO Labeling

The Environmental Working Group estimates that the average American now consumes more than his or her own body weight in Genetically Modified foods (GMOs) – 193 lbs. – every year. Since the EWG only took into account corn, soybean oil, and sugar beet consumption and there are many other GMO crops infiltrating our food supply, this is probably a low-ball estimate of how much exposure to GMOs we are actually getting as unwitting subjects in this massive biochemical experiment on the public health.the non gmo project

Because GMOs are not required to be labeled, much of the food you are eating regularly likely contains GMO ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or corn in any form. Since more than 88% of our corn is now GMO corn, we have to assume that most corn-based foods and additives are GMOs unless otherwise labeled.

Not only are GMO foods messing with our bodies and those of our future descendents, but they are wreaking havoc on the environment. According to the EWG’s report on GMOs: “The evidence of environmental harm of GE crops and associated pesticides is compelling. The planting of GE crops has increased overall pesticide use by more than 300 million pounds and has led to the proliferation of pesticide-resistant superweeds and superbugs.”

Right now, the Non-GMO Project is the only way short of organic that you can be sure that the food you are eating is not a genetically modified chemistry experiment with long-term effects on your body. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit that offers the only third-party verification seal on products not using GMOs. Look for their seal on products at the grocery store to be sure you are keeping your family safe.

If you need any other reasons why it’s important to label GMO foods, watch “Genetic Roulette,” a compelling documentary about GMOs in America. Right now, GMO labeling is on the ballot in California, so if you live in California be sure to vote YES on Prop 37 and help labeling laws spread across the land to allow each of us to protect ourselves and opt out of the experiment.

What Foods Have Been Genetically Modified (GMO)?

At the Seeds of Doubt conference outside of Boulder, CO, last weekend, I learned exactly which fruits and vegetables in our country could be grown from a genetically-modified seed and end up in your grocery cart and you would never know it.

Europe has banned GM foods for human and animal consumption for more than a decade while the American government has not acted to protect the public health from the corporate goals of the GMO industry. Even developing nations in dire need for food have recognized the risks of tinkering with our sustenance in this way. In 2002, Zambia rejected a donation of GM corn seeds even though they were on the brink of famine, saying science had not yet proven their safety. Still, GMOs have infiltrated the U.S.A. at many levels.

The GMO industry doesn’t even want us to know when we’re eating GM foods, because they fear we will reject them if we knew what we were eating, so they are fighting labeling initiatives at the state level. They have good reason to fear this as experiments have shown that even animals will reject GM feed when given the option. The more we learn about Genetically Modified foods and this experiment with the public health and its effects on our future generations and our lands, the more certain of that rejection we will become.

To start, we need to know which foods gracing our tables every day could be, if grown on non-organic farms, Genetically Modified produce. It’s a pretty short list, though most of these are ubiquitous in our cuisine:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Canola (95% of the canola crop is “Roundup Ready”)
  • Cottonseed
  • Sugar Beets

Unless you see the word “organic” associated with these items, you can be pretty sure these days that these crops were grown from genetically modified seeds. These seeds have been genetically modified to be “Roundup Ready” (TM), or amenable to the glyphosate-based fertilizer that is used in Monsanto’s “RoundUp” (TM) fertilizer product.

Three other vegetables and fruits are Genetically Modified to be virus resistant:

  • Papaya from Hawaii (papaya from other places are not GMO)
  • Zucchini
  • Crookneck squash

In March of 2012 the FDA approved the unlabeled sale of genetically modified salmon in the U.S. The only way to ensure you are not purchasing these mutant salmon-like fish, you must choose salmon labeled “wild-caught”.

Another everyday Genetically Modified item that may surprise you: Aspartame, otherwise known as Equal, is a GM product. Yet one more reason not to drink diet sodas.

You can check if the items at your local grocery store are Genetically Modified with the ShopNoGMO chart and free mobile phone app. Also, you can support labeling initiatives, so that at the very least we can each choose to eat franken-foods or not. Knowledge is power.