Dear Chef Christy,
I have been doing a lot of reading about GMO (genetically modified organisms) I have some friends who say don’t touch them and others say it is no big deal. What do you think?
Pat from Marietta, GA
That’s a great question, Pat. GMO’s are in the news a lot, and for good reason. They represent a major shift in our food sources that have the potential to create a lasting impact on our entire food supply. I find I have a hard time expressing how important this issue is. It certainly is a ‘big deal’.
I have tried to break my answer down into a few key guidelines to help you make better informed decisions when you are buying your weekly groceries.
1) Food Labels
- Be aware of everything you buy. Always read labels. Food labeling standards in the US are great, although you might need a little education on deciphering the Nutrition Information panel and Ingredient Lists on the back of your favorite products.
- Support food labeling laws, ESPECIALLY on new food products like GMO foods.
There is no legitimate excuse for legislation that outlaws labeling.
2) Know Your Food
- Local farmer’s markets, community gardens, container gardening and local sourcing are great ways to know your food and how it was planted, tended, grown, and harvested. Look for organic and natural farming techniques, even hydroponics and other sustainable agricultural practices used to produce your food.
- Be prepared to pay a little extra. Eating local, seasonal foods is the best way to maintain vibrant health. The added benefit is a reduction in doctor’s bills and medications that you take to get over being sick from eating crappy food. Invest in your health and your future with better quality food.
- When buying at the grocery, look for companies that label or restrict GMO’s. Here is a list of companies and the retailers that carry them.
3) Eat Close to Nature
- Stick to foods that are in their natural, original form. Whole grains, fresh vegetables, organically raised meats, eggs and dairy products.
- Your herbs and your coffee are better if you buy them whole and then grind them yourself, so are your whole grains for that matter. (You can even buy small counter-top mills for grinding your own grain in batches sized for individual recipes).
- Your veggies contain more flavor and nutrients when you eat them fresh. Flash-frozen is next best.
- Shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh foods are, and avoid the processed foods in the inner aisles.
- Current organic labeling laws do not allow GMOs, so buy organic whenever possible.
Sure, working with fresh, whole foods takes a little extra time, but it is very manageable. I am working on a cookbook called “Plan-Aheads” to address the kitchen habits that will help you work the extra prep time into a busy lifestyle.
Don’t let “I’m too busy” be an excuse that lets you eat foods that will ultimately damage your long-term health.
4) Check your sources
- Most of the controversy over the topic seems to be coming from the manufacturers. They are for them, virtually everyone else is against them.
- The list of countries around the world that have banned GMO’s is extensive.
- We don’t know what the long-term effects will be on humans because testing has not been done. Preliminary animal testing has identified multiple problem areas.
- Lawsuits are being waged because GMO plants do not stay contained where they are planted and interact with other native species.
- A rush-to-market attitude on approval leaves untested laboratory-created unknowns entering the food supply with no safeguards in place to prevent them from disrupting the natural food chain.
Any source that says GMO’s are ‘perfectly safe’ is just plain false.
I spend a lot of time telling people to pay attention to their food. It is very important to fuel your body with wholesome nutrients that will keep you healthy. I don’t think the importance of this particular area of food safety can be overstated, and I’m glad you asked. I try to focus on positive news and tips that help you move forward, so I don’t get on a soapbox and rail against things very often, because I want to offer helpful information and not just add to the clamor and din. I hope my suggestions give you some positive action steps to follow when you are making your next grocery run. Be well!