Tips to Help You Eat GMO-Free

by Melissa Diane Smith

Want to avoid laboratory-created, genetically modified organisms? October is Non-GMO Month – the ideal time to follow the Eat GMO-Free Challenge and learn how to remove GMOs from your diet.

Eat GMO-Free Challenge Tip 1A few years ago, I realized that general GMO avoidance guidelines aren’t enough for most people who want to stay away from genetically modified foods. That’s why I created the Eat GMO-Free Challenge—a series of tips to follow each day for 31 days to help people slowly learn how to remove sources of GMOs from their diet (no matter what type of diet they follow!).

Below you’ll find some of the tips in the challenge. You can find the complete Eat GMO-Free Challenge in my book Going Against GMOs or at my website

Tip #1

Freely eat all types of vegetables except for: zucchini and yellow squash, a small amount of which is genetically modified; GM sweet corn, which started to appear in grocery stores in the autumn of 2011; and GM potatoes, which arrived on some grocery shelves this summer. Seek out organic zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, and potatoes.

Tip #2

Enjoy all types of fruit except papaya, especially papaya grown in Hawaii or China, most of which is genetically modified or contaminated with GMOs. Look for organic papaya or choose non-GMO varieties (Kapoho, Mexican Red, Caribbean Red, Maradol, Royal Star, Singapore Pink, and Higgins) and those grown in Brazil, Belize, or Mexico. (Also, beware of GM apples, which are slated to arrive in 2016 – see the sidebar.)

Tip #3

Learn the 3 “C”s and 2 “S”s as a way to imprint the 5 major genetically modified crops in our food supply in your mind. The 3 “C”s are: Corn, Canola, and Cottonseed. The 2 “S”s are Soybeans, and Sugar from sugar beets. More detail about each of these foods will be covered in the next five tips.

Tip #4

To avoid GM corn, read food product labels and avoid those with obvious corn-based ingredients by looking for ingredients that contain the words “corn” or “maize” in them. Common examples include: corn oil, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, corn meal, corn masa (as in tamales), and maize starch. Steer clear of sweet corn and all foods that contain corn-based ingredients (including corn tortillas, corn chips, polenta, and corn grits) unless they are labeled USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

Tip #5

To avoid GM canola, look for canola oil in lists of ingredients and avoid those that contain it unless it is labeled organic or Non-GMO Project Verified. Canola oil is found in a wide range of products, including pasta sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise, snack foods, prepared foods, and frozen entrees.

Tip #6

To avoid GM cottonseed, look for cottonseed oil in food product ingredients and avoid those that contain it. Cottonseed oil is sometimes in roasted nuts, snack foods, bread, and certain canned fish items.

Tip #7

To avoid GM soy, look for food products that say: Contains Soy (it should be clearly listed because Soy is a common allergen); or look for obvious ingredients that contain the words “soy” in the food product’s list of ingredients. Common examples of soy-based ingredients include: soy protein, soy flour, soy sauce, soybean oil, soy milk, and soy lecithin. Tofu, tempeh, and miso are other sources of soy. Steer clear of foods with all of these ingredients unless they are labeled USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified.

Tip #8

To avoid sugar from GM sugar beets, read food product labels and don’t buy foods that contain “sugar” or “beet sugar” in lists of ingredients. When not specified as sugar from sugar cane, “Sugar” in a list of ingredients almost always means a combination of sugar from sugar cane (which isn’t genetically modified) and sugar from sugar beets (which is genetically modified).

Tip #11

Avoid processed foods and convenience foods as much as possible. Because almost all conventional corn, soy, and sugar beets grown in this county are genetically modified and subsidized by our government, they are cheap and end up in about 75 to 80 percent of processed foods in different forms.

Tip #14

Cook with unrefined extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil instead of conventional butter, canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, or soybean oil. Conventional butter can contain GMOs and the latter four oils almost always contain GMOs. If you want to cook with butter, buy organic butter, which is free of GMOs – preferably organic pasture-raised butter.

Tip #17

Be careful about what you drink. Besides soft drinks (both diet and regular) that likely contain GMOs, so too do any type of commercial sweetened beverage, including sweetened iced tea, and hot tea or coffee drinks such as lattes.

Tip #26

Purchase Non-GMO Project Verified eggs or organic pastured eggs (from chickens that are not fed corn or soy that has been genetically engineered).

Tip #27

Switch to eating organic, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish and seafood. Conventionally raised animals are usually fed GMO corn and GMO soy-based diets, and farm-raised fish are typically fed GMO feed, as well.

Copyright 2015 Melissa Diane Smith


An Update on GM Potatoes and Apples

Despite widespread public distrust of genetically modified (GM) foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March approved six varieties of a GM potato (engineered by the J.R. Simplot Company to have reduced bruising and fewer black spots) and two varieties of a GM apple (engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, Inc., to resist browning when cut or bruised).

One variety of the GM potato already was being sold in some supermarkets this summer. Tip #1 has been revised to reflect that new information.

The GM apples are estimated to start appearing on some grocery store shelves in small quantities in 2016.

To steer clear of apples and potatoes that are genetically modified, seek out those that are labeled USDA Organic. Even if potatoes and apples are not genetically modified, it’s a good idea to buy organic: Apples and potatoes are listed on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the produce items that have the highest amounts of pesticide residues. See this post of mine for more info.


Did you know…?

Non-GMO SealYou can now choose from 1,733 Non-GMO Project Verified brands and more than 30,000 Non-GMO Project Verified products, in categories ranging from groceries to supplements to pet food. Watch for non-GMO featured products and specials at natural food stores that are participating in Non-GMO Month this month.

In order to earn the Non-GMO Project Verified label, a product must undergo a review process by the Non-GMO Project, which operates North America’s only third party verification program for non-GMO food and products. The program includes testing of at-risk ingredients.

usda_organic_sealYou also can avoid GMOs by buying products that have the USDA Organic label. The use of GMOs is prohibited in organic products.

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