Health and environmental concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have many people looking for non-GMO foods to enjoy. Learn how to spot organic foods if you want to stick to a non-GMO diet.
GMOs are living things that have had their DNA changed in some way, according to the Purdue University College of Agriculture. In terms of food and beverages, this often means that scientists have altered some part of the crop's DNA to change its taste, resistance to bugs or other characteristics.
Labeling for Non-GMO Foods
Although the debate about the effects of GMOs rages on, many people choose to limit their consumption of these foods. In fact, the International Food Information Council Foundation found in a June 2018 survey that 41 percent of consumers consider whether foods have GMOs before making a purchase.
If you want to avoid any possible risks and side effects of GMOs, you should first learn how to read food labels. The farmers' group Illinois Farm Families reports that the United States government changed labeling standards for GMOs with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard in 2016. This law aims to make it easier to identify GMO and non-GMO foods.
The law requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to set legal standards regarding labeling for GMO foods. The USDA's standards go into effect in January 2020, but manufacturers do not need to change their labels until 2022. At that point, people who want to avoid GMOs can look for a symbol that indicates that the product uses GMO ingredients.
Read more: Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Food
Finding Non-GMO Foods
Until the new GMO labeling laws go into place, consumers need to rely on third-party organizations to easily identify non-GMO foods. One such organization, the Non-GMO Project Verified, keeps a list of thousands of non-GMO foods that they independently verify, including specific types of:
- Alternative dairy products
- Baked goods
- Baby products
- Pet products
If you're looking for non-GMO grocery stores, the Non-GMO Project Verified also has a list for that. Search by location, name or even the level of support the retailer gives. No matter what store you shop in, you can likely find non-GMO vegetables and fruits. While the term "organic" is broader than "non-GMO," most organic produce is good for a non-GMO diet, according to the Center for Food Safety.
Another way to avoid GMOs is to know which foods are most commonly genetically modified. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that corn, soybeans and cotton are the most common GMOs in the country. This means that anything with ingredients derived from these crops, such as:
- Corn starch
- Corn syrups
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
The FDA also allows crops such as papayas, potatoes, squash varieties and apples to undergo genetic modification. The agency monitors these ingredients for safety, but it does not require GMO labeling yet.
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "IFIC Foundation Survey"
- Purdue University College of Agriculture: "What are GMOs?"
- Illinois Farm Families: "Everything You Need to Know About GMO Labeling in 2019
- Non-GMO Project Verified: "Verified Products"
- Center for Food Safety: "Fruits & Vegetables"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Consumer Info About Food from Genetically Engineered Plants"