Genetically modified organisms are present in many common foods today. The process of genetically altering a plant or animal involves the manipulation of its genetic material to create traits that cannot occur through traditional crossbreeding. GMOs are designed to have a number of desirable traits, including increased yield, defense against pests and drought tolerance. Some of the most versatile crops, which are used as ingredients in many food products, are largely composed of GMOs. Therefore, GMO foods can occur in almost any packaged food.
Biggest GMO Crops
According to the Non GMO Project, a number of crops are at "high risk" for being genetically modified. These crops include alfalfa, canola, corn, papaya, cotton, soy, sugar beets, yellow summer squash and zucchini. In the United States, genetically modified versions of these crops account for approximately 90 percent or more of the total yield. Other crops, which are labeled as "monitored" crops by the Non GMO project, can potentially become contaminated with GMOs by genetically modified relatives. Crops in this group include wheat, rice, flax, acorn squash, bok choy, turnips, rutabaga, Siberian kale, table beets and chard.
Salmon and Low-Risk GMO Foods
Genetically engineered salmon is currently a hot topic due to a version of GMO salmon that has been developed and is being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. It remains to be seen whether GMO salmon will be sold to consumers. Some genetically modified foods that have been developed pose little to no risk to consumers. Genetically modified potatoes and tomatoes have been labeled "low-risk" by the Non GMO Project, since they are no longer produced commercially.
Corn and Soy
Because corn and soy are such a versatile crops, they are put to use in various forms across the food supply. The Institute for Responsible Technology notes that ingredients derived from soybeans that are likely to be genetically modified include soy protein, soy isolates, soy lecithin, vegetable proteins, tofu, tempeh, tamari and soy protein supplements. Common ingredients made from corn, which are likely to be genetically modified, include corn flour, corn gluten, corn syrup, corn starch, corn meal and high-fructose corn syrup. For any foods that contain vegetable oils, including canola, cottonseed, corn or soy, there is a good chance that genetically modified versions have been used.
According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, examples of foods that may contain GMO ingredients include bread, cereal, pasta, ice cream, fried foods, crackers, cookies, chocolate, alcohol, peanut butter, soy cheese, protein powder, hot dogs, hamburgers, mayonnaise, white vinegar, chips, vanilla, baking powder, veggie burgers, meat substitutes and tofu. The Non GMO Shopping Guide notes that you can avoid GMO food by purchasing certified organic foods, which are free of GMOs. You can also look for foods that have a Non GMO Project seal.