Americans are divided on many issues, but luckily GMO labeling isn’t one of them. Polling consistently shows more than 90 percent of Americans want meaningful, easy-to-understand GMO labeling on food packaging. (When was the last time that many Americans agreed on anything?) This type of labeling helps shoppers better understand what’s in their food, and it only makes sense, especially when you consider 64 other countries — including China and Russia — require GMO labeling.
So why the need to label in the first place? GMOs, also known as genetically engineered or genetically modified foods, come from seeds created and grown in a controversial way that could never occur in nature. Mounting studies blame GMOs for a range of serious health problems and environmental destruction. (1)
Big Companies to Use GMO Labeling
Although U.S. Congress still hasn’t mandated GMO labeling, the Senate did recently block legislation that would have taken away states’ rights to require labeling. And it’s pretty clear large companies are starting to take consumers’ concerns seriously. General Mills is the latest company to announce it will voluntarily enact GMO labeling on its products nationwide starting July 1. That’s the same day Vermont legislation requiring GMO labeling is set to go into effect. (2)
General Mills is the parent company to dozens of brands and hundreds of food products, including Cheerios, Wheaties, Progresso soups, Annie’s and Hamburger Helper. The company is the latest in a slew of large corporations vowing to clearly label the presence of GMOs or genetically engineered ingredients in food products.
Campbell’s Soup Co., Mars Inc., Kellogg Co. and ConAgra Foods all also recently announced plans to introduce clear labeling on the package of products containing GMOs. Labeling proponents say this is a huge win for consumers in the fight for more transparency.
Why Is GMO Labeling Important?
It seems like knowing what’s in your food should be a basic right, but chemical and biotech companies that create GMO seeds and the pesticides designed to be sprayed on them have spent millions to defeat GMO labeling efforts. Soda and food companies, along with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have also spent millions to stop states from passing GMO labeling laws. Even General Mills spent money to defeat labeling efforts in the past but now supports a nationwide labeling system.
When you learn more about the health implications of GMOs, it’s easy to see why some corporations want to keep you in the dark. Here are just a few reasons why GMO labeling is important and why you should avoid GMOs:
- In 2015, the World Health Organization listed glyphosate, the go-to weedkiller in Monsanto’s Roundup and the chemical sprayed on most GMO crops, “probably carcinogenic to humans.” (3)
- Norwegian researchers detect extreme levels of glyphosate in U.S.-grown soy. (4)
- Glyphosate exposure in farming communities can double a person’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. (5)
- In 2013, researchers from MIT published a study in the journal Interdisciplinary Toxicology declaring glyphosate the “most important causal factor in the celiac disease epidemic,” citing more than 270 studies examining how the pesticide could be linked to the fourfold increase in celiac disease (as well as numerous other autoimmune conditions) over the past few decades. (6)
Clear Labeling vs. QR Codes
The big food and biotech industries are lobbying hard to prevent a nationwide GMO labeling law that would require a clear message on the package stating that the product contains genetically engineered ingredients. The industry instead prefers “QR,” or quick response, codes that people can scan with their phones to get more information.
But that’s simply not what U.S. shoppers want. Recent polling shows that more than 88 percent of Americans want an on-the-package label compared to a QR code. Make sure you let your elected officials know you stand for strong, on-package GMO labeling.
How to Avoid GMOs
Even if you don’t eat tofu, corn or canola oil, these ingredients are hidden under dozens of different names in many processed foods. Until GMO foods are clearly labeled, you’ll have to do your due diligence to avoid them. Here are some tips to avoid GMOs:
- Avoid all foods with corn, canola, cotton oil and soy.
- Look for and buy foods that are labeled GMO-free.
- Shop for organic foods.
- Plant your own garden and choose local, organic produce at your farmer’s market. You can also consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) program in your area to receive farm-fresh veggies throughout the growing season. (Just be sure not to over-wash your veggies! Eating dirt is scientifically proven to be good for you.)
Final Thoughts on GMO Labeling
Many other countries require GMO labeling, so it seems only reasonable Americans should get an easy-to-understand heads up regarding what’s in their food, too. Of course, the ideal situation would be that our foods are free of GMOs altogether, but until then, news of companies like General Mills labeling GMOs is a step in the right direction — and one that empowers consumers.
To be clear, many of these foods are processed, packaged convenience foods that aren’t usually the healthiest choices. Your best bet is to eat a whole foods diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, to choose organic whenever possible and to support GMO labeling efforts.
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