As a Vegan, do you need to care about or even advocate for non-GMO food production? Well, considering that the 9 genetically engineered food crops currently on the market in the U.S. are all “Vegan”, and that tomatoes are being mixed with flounder genes in order to grow larger and more quickly the answer might be a resounding YES. But the biggest kicker of them all is the fact that companies who use GMO’s in their food and drink concoctions have no legal requirement to tell us.
Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO’s) are plants or animals that have been genetically altered by scientists with the goal being to improve its ability to grow in non-native environments, resist pests, tolerate extreme weather conditions, produce more food or show other desired traits. The U.S Government approved GE (genetically engineered) crops nearly 20 years ago. Today corn and soy make up more than 90% of the acres planted. Five countries grow 90% of the world’s genetically engineered crops; the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Argentina and India.
Just to be clear, GMO’s are different from hybridization and selective breeding. Selective breeding is the process of breeding plants and animals for particular traits in the attempt to make the animal or plant better in some way. For instance, when you cross a blackberry with a raspberry you get a boysenberry (hybrid). These two methods are have been around for at least a thousand years and to this day are quite effective.
Why Do Scientists Believe That GMO Foods Are Worth Producing?
- The plant is more resistant to herbicides and insectides, therefore, farmers can use more of these chemicals to produce larger crops which ultimately means a higher return on investment.
- Some scientists believe that this is a way to ensure a greater food supply and to alleviate hunger on a global scale.
Problems With Using GMO’s As It Stands Now
- Breeding plants with fish: this absolutely does not occur in nature and for some might even be unethical.
- There’s an assumption of safety rather than being tested and prove.
- GMO’s are highly unpredictable and untested: the FDA does not require the same level of human testing for GMO’s as it does other things we ingest.
- New allergens are formed
- The long-term effects both to the environment and our bodies are two areas that are largely uncertain.
- Food companies are not required by law to list whether an ingredient is a GMO.
- The most recent study published came out of France found that feeding GMO corn over two years brought about massive tumors in rats (sorry if the use of rats upsets some of you but thought you’d still want to know the information). This has led to Russia putting a ban on all GMO-containing food products coming from Monsanto, a financially and politically powerful food production corporation, until their food safety researchers do a thorough investigation into the matter.
- When a food is listed as NON-GMO, GM contamination is still possible due to natural pollen movement, weather events, seed contamination or human error. In fact, this makes the organic farmer’s job that much more challenging should he find himself living next door to a GMO crop!
How Does a Vegan Adhere To A GMO-free Diet?
- Buy only products that are USDA Organic certified: This means that the ingredients in a food product is at least 70% organic but 100% GMO-free.
- Look for a NON-GMO labels: Many companies are now volunteering this information up front but you still have to look closely. Some will say “Made without GMO’s” while others will only point out a particular at-risk ingredient such as soy lecithin.
- Avoid At-Risk Ingredients: Some of the most common genetically engineered big four ingredients processed are corn, soy, canola and cotton. Additionally, GM sugar beet has entered the food supply, so only buy sweeteners that say they are organic or made with 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or agave.
- Eat More Whole Fruits and Vegetables and Less Processed, Packaged Foods.
- Know Your Brands: Fortunately, the Center for Food Safety made this way easier for all of us. In fact, there’s even a iPhone and Android operating systems free application in case you want to know about a product while standing in front of an aisle of choices. Just because they appear to be healthful and natural doesn’t mean they don’t contain GMO’s. Meat and dairy alternatives are two of the biggest areas of concern for Vegans because they almost always contain soy. Below is some information extracted from the Center for Food Safety’s True Food Shopper’s Guide.
Meat alternatives that may contain GMO’s:
- Boca burgers(unless labeled organic)
- Morningstar Farms, Loma Linda(unless labeled organic)
Meat alternatives that are NON-GMO:
- 365 Brand
- Bountiful Bean
- Small Planet Tofu
- Sunshine Burger
- The Simple Soyman
- White Wave
- Woodstock Farms
Alternative Dairy Products that may contain GMO’s
- 8th Continent
- Any soy product not labeled organic
Alternative Dairy Products that are NON-GMO
- Imagine Foods/Soy Dream
- Nancy’s Cultured Soy
- Organic Valley Soy
- Soy Delicious
- Sun Soy
- Stonyfield Farm O’Soy
- Trader Joe’s brand
- Whole Soy
- Yves The Good Slice
- Zen Don
You may have heard that in November California residents will vote for or against Proposition 37 which if passed means that companies would be required to list all GMO ingredients in their products if they want to do commerce in their state. Last October hundreds of people walked 313 miles from New York to Washington D.C. to make their voices heard in The Right To Know March and over 1.3 million people have already signed a petition to the FDA demanding truth in labeling practices. These are huge steps towards ensuring our right to make an informed decision about what we’re swallowing! If you’re interested to get involved, then you’ll find a link below to the FDA petition but also don’t underestimate your purchasing power and only buy from reputable sources.
by Melissa Sanborn of Nutritional Brands, PureVegan
- True Food Shoppers Guide: How To Avoid Foods Made with GMO’s. http://truefoodnow.files.wordpress.com/2011102/CFS-shoppersguide.pdf
- Just Label It Campaign to the FDA: www.justlabelit.org
- 8 Things You Can Do(to avoid /GMO’s) : www.justlabelit.org
- Severe Toxic Effects of the GMO and of the major herbicide. http://www.criigen.org/SiteEn/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=366&Itemid=130
- Russia bans all GM Corn Imports from Monsanto. http://www.naturalnews.com/037328_Russia_GMO_Monsanto.html
Photo credit: Yastremska via BigStock