As the weather heats up and spring rolls in, some of you may be starting a vegetable garden as a hobby, or so that you know what is in your vegetables–I enjoy referring to mine as a victory garden. Recently congress passed and President Obama signed into law what critics call the Monsanto Protection Act which allows GE (genetically engineered) and GMO (genetically modified organism) products and ingredients to continue to be grown and remain on the shelves while under review. There are substantial claims of cancer causing agents and other harmful effects of GMO’s. The problem is that the USDA and FDA routinely harass small farms, removing their non-GMO products from the shelves for trumped up reasons, and forcing prohibitive regulations on smaller farming operations. What this act does is make small farms play by different rules than Monsanto, and big farms, who will be able to keep unsafe foods on the shelves of our supermarkets, while local farms’ ability to stock their safe products on their shelves is constantly threatened.
Too often the law becomes a bludgeoning tool used against economic competitors. With the revolving door of Monsanto executives and government officials, a law that is supposedly to keep us safe, turns into a weapon that Monsanto can use to shut down small farms with their influence over the FDA, USDA, and U.S. government. Regulations meant to ensure our food is safe are carried out mercilessly against small farms, destroying family businesses which never got anyone sick, but Monsanto has the money and lawyers to comply with those regulations, while keeping any GMO labeling regulations off the table. Even Hillary Clinton and Clarence Thomas worked as lawyers for Monsanto, suggesting their grip on government reaches to the top levels. I believe if the USDA and FDA were given less power, they would be unable to shut down small farms, forcing Monsanto to compete in a free market. With the public support behind local food and non-GMO products, economic self interest would force companies to stop using GE’s and GMO’s in their products, thus defunding Monsanto. If Monsanto had to compete in a free market without the USDA and FDA as their bodyguards, small farms would win. Right now crony capitalism is working to strengthen Monsanto and kill local growth.
But how do we do this without the information available? Well it may require some work on our part, but it is possible to find out which products are using GMO’s and GE’s, even though they are not required to label the products as such. Unfortunately, some of your favorite foods, and most convenient grocery store items are on the list, so prepare for some disappointment. The Center for Food Safety has some tips on how to avoid GMO’s as well as a list of specific products which do and do not include genetically engineered ingredients. First off, certified organic products labeled as such are not allowed to include GMO ingredients. Also, genetically modified beets have recently been introduced in many products, so looking for products made with “100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, agave, or organic sugar” will help you avoid GM’s.
The report says that currently no GE fowl or livestock are yet approved for human consumption, but that many animals are fed GM feeds like grain. To avoid these meats, look for 100% grass fed animals. Some meat alternative products such as the Whole Foods 365 brand are non-GMO, but others, including many Kellogg and Kraft varieties may contain GMO.
Some U.S. dairy farms inject the genetically engineered hormone rBGH, also called rBST, into their cows to boost milk production—so be sure to purchase products with a label that indicates cows free of rBGH or rBST.
Whole Foods 365 brand, Walmart Great Value store brand, and Trader Joe’s store brand dairy products are produced without rBGH, but other big names such as Land O’Lakes and General Mills may contain GMO ingredients. When looking for baked goods, “Aunt Jemima (Quaker Oats/Pepsico) Betty Crocker (General Mills) Bisquick (General Mills) Calumet Baking Powder (Kraft) Duncan Hines (Pinnacle Foods) Hungry Jack (Smucker’s) Pillsbury (Smucker’s)” all may contain GMO’s. General Mills, Quaker, Post, and Kellogg cereals also all have the possibility of containing genetically modified organism ingredients.
Chef Boyardee and Dinty Moore are two big name canned items which may contain GMO’s, along with Campbell products, Del Monte, Progresso and more. In the frozen foods section, try to steer clear of Banquet, Bertolli, Green Giant, Lean Cuisine, Stouffer’s, and Swanson to avoid GMO ingredients. Look for Newman’s Own Organic products in order to avoid GMO ingredients, as well as Annie’s and a number of smaller brands that reportedly do not contain GMO ingredients. Again, it seems that Trader Joe’s brand and Whole Foods brand are free of GMO ingredients. Avoid Kraft, Heinz, Skippy, Peter Pan, Pam, Crisco, and Wish-Bone when shopping for condiments. When it comes to snack foods, Kraft, Keebler, Hostess, Pringles, Pepperidge Farm, Quaker Oats, and Frito-Lay all have the possibility of containing GMO ingredients. “Hershey’s Lifesaver (Kraft) Mars (Wrigley’s, Skittles, Starburst) Nestle” are some candies to avoid if you do not want to consume GMO ingredients. Beverages such as Coca-Cola products, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Pepsi and Swiss Miss should likewise be avoided in order to avoid consuming GMO ingredients.
The products mentioned in this article are not all of the products which may contain GMO ingredients. For a more comprehensive list of brands to avoid and brands to favor, check out the Center for Food Safety’s True Food Now report, which this article based much of its information on. I think that we are all personally responsible for our own health and safety, so knowing what your foods contain is a good step towards fighting back against corrupt agricultural companies like Monsanto. In addition to buying the right brands, buying local produce, going to farmers’ markets, joining a CSA, growing your own vegetable garden, and growing your own livestock are all great steps towards reclaiming the power over our diets. I think that once people are aware of what is being put into their foods, they will have the drive to change their diets, and in doing so take a stand against FDA and USDA suppression of small farms. But something we can all do right now is vote 3 times a day at mealtime with our forks and our dollars against genetically modified ingredients in our food.