Kick the Supermarket Habit: 10 Tips for Identifying Nutritious Life-Giving Foods

 Tip #2: Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, GMOs are now present in 80% of America’s processed foods. So why should you be concerned?

GMOs are health hazards in many ways. If you have any doubt about the health detriments of GMOs, read Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey Smith (author of Seeds of Deception). In Genetic Roulette, Jeffrey explains:

  • Gene insertion disrupts DNA. Genes that are isolated and inserted into GMOs transfer to gut bacteria, viruses, and internal organs. 80% of your immune system is in your gut in the form of beneficial bacteria. Abnormal gut bacteria means abnormal immune responses (allergies, auto-immune disorders) and degenerative diseases. When genes from GMOs incorporate themselves into your organs, that means that genetically modified organisms become a part of you.
  • GM potatoes damage organs in animals. This was determined by comparative autopsies of animals that consumed GM potatoes vs. animals that consumed non-GM potatoes.
  • Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is linked to several cancers and premature breast development in girls.
  • GMOs contain allergens.
  • Sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields. The Bt genes are from bacteria that produce a toxin which acts as an insecticide. When Bt genes are inserted into a plant (such as cotton or corn), the plant produces the toxin that kills pests that eat the plant. This eliminates the need to spray the plants with insecticide. Only problem is, the toxin is in the plant, and you eat the plant!
  • Cows in Germany died after eating Bt corn. Monsanto has confirmed that pests are now evolving to be resistant to the toxin produced by Bt plants. So now Bt crops need to be sprayed with insecticide to control the pests which are resistant to the Bt toxin.
  • Twice as many chickens died after eating GM corn as compared to those that ate non-GMO corn.
  • GMOs have lower levels of nutrients and higher amounts of toxins than their organic or sustainably grown counterparts. Lower in nutrients because they are mega-crops, grown year after year in the same soil, so the soil is depleted of minerals and nutrients. Higher in toxins because they are sprayed heavily with chemicals, or they produce their own toxins (as Bt crops).
  • All GMOs carry a mycofungus that causes infertility. This was brought to light by Dr. Don Huber, a scientist from Purdue University who has done research over a number of years on genetically modified foods.

GMOs are much less prevalent in Europe because the European Union (EU) tries to keep them out. In some countries, like the Ukrane, a label is used to identify non-GMO foods. The EU does not need to wait for proof of harm before banning GMOs, as our tort system requires here in the U.S.

Since the publication of the results of Dr. Huber’s research, there is now proof of harm. Will this result in adoption of laws or regulations governing the use of GMOs? If the cigarette industry is any indication of how things might turn out, perhaps GMOs won’t be taken off the market completely, but it is conceivable that they may be labeled, or carry a warning.

In the U.S., genetically modified foods do not need to be labeled. Assuming that you choose not to consume genetically engineered food, how do you know what you’re getting when you shop in a supermarket? How can you identify food that is non-GMO? At the supermarket, you don’t have the pleasure of being acquainted with the farmer, so you can’t ask how s/he raised the food. Instead, you must depend on the USDA certified organic label.

But there are some drawbacks to organic:

  • The most obvious one is that they are expensive. In the supermarket they’re the only alternative. In a later article, I’ll discuss how to find better-than-organic produce at less-than-organic prices.
  • Some genetically modified items were grandfathered in under the organic standards. A good example is canola oil, which comes from a genetically modified rape seed. There is no such thing as a canola plant. Canola is an acronym for “Canadian Oil, Low Acid”. Canola oil was originally used in oil lamps. Later it was used as a lubricant on steam ships. It was never meant for human consumption, until it was genetically modified so that the body would not reject it. An article written in July, 2002 by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD outlines the history of canola oil and explains why it is not organic and should not be consumed, particularly if it is not used in combination with saturated fats (
  • Even under the organic standards, some chemicals are still permitted. Just like the factories that make new flavors, chemical companies are constantly developing new chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They are used on organic crops before the EPA has a chance to test them. Once the EPA studies a new chemical and finds a harmful effect, that chemical is removed from use under the organic standards. But until the studies are done, the chemicals are used, because they have not yet been deemed “harmful”.
  • Certification requires daily record keeping. Crops must be counted every time they’re transplanted or thinned. Surprise inspections can be staged and fines imposed for non-compliance. It’s an expensive and time-consuming game for small farmers.
  • The fines for violations and fees to become certified are too expensive for the small farmer. Large companies can absorb these costs. Some hire specialists just for the purpose of overseeing compliance with the organic standards. But small farmers don’t have the resources or the time to maintain compliance.
  • Organic Standards are in constant flux. Large companies continuously lobby for more relaxed standards, and consumer advocacy organizations push back. The winner is often determined by who has the deepest pockets. Over the years the trend has been toward more relaxed standards. There is no guarantee that the organic food you buy today was produced under the same standards that were in place yesterday; nor that the food you buy tomorrow will be produced under the same standards as today.
  • And finally, some countries have standards for importing foods. The European Union tests food for nutrient content before it goes to market. The nutrient content must meet certain standards. Under a nationalized health care system, they strive to control costs by ensuring that citizens have access to high quality food to increase the likelihood that they remain healthy. Japan has a similar arrangement for certain food items. Foods that don’t measure up are returned to the country of origin, or sent to another country where there are no standards in place. The U.S. has no standards in place. Some large organic companies in the US export their products. Some of them test their foods privately for nutrient content, and export the highest nutrient valued food to the countries with standards that require it. This leaves what’s left for the U.S. and other countries without standards.

 Until GMOs are labeled or banned, what can we do to look out for ourselves and our families without going broke buying certified organics? In addition to the GMOs, we must also be on the look out for artificial flavors and colors, pasteurized foods, processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, canola oil, soy beans and all products made with them… Where is hope?

We will explore answers to these questions in my next article. In the meantime, keep shopping holistically, and avoid genetically modified foods as best you can.

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About Susan Blasko

Susan Blasko is the DC area and Northern Virginia marketing representative for Polyface. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication at the University of Pittsburgh, and completed the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program at Georgetown University. She discovered real food when her good friend gave her a copy of Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions”. She went “cold turkey”, and hasn’t purchased food in a supermarket since 2008. Susan considers farmers to be her closest allies in procuring produce grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and meats from animals raised the way nature intended – on the pasture, and in the sun. Now a Board Certified Nutritional Therapist, Susan maintains a small private practice, helping her clients to reclaim their well being by guiding them in their quest for safe, nutrient dense, sustainably raised foods. She teaches food preparation techniques that increase nutrient bioavailability and enhance nature’s best flavors. She believes that by forming relationships with life-giving processes, we become better stewards of our bodies and of our planet. She encourages partnering with nature to honor and nurture the mysterious property that makes food alive and gives us life!

2 Responses to Kick the Supermarket Habit: 10 Tips for Identifying Nutritious Life-Giving Foods

  1. Helen says:

    It should not be a hard thing to do, go out and buy food for our family. But, it has become this sea of “What is really in our food”. We all have to become some expert on label reading at the grocery store. It is very frustrating. We are in the process of buying a few acres and being able to grow our own food. But, not everyone can do that.

  2. Jenni says:

    That is really interesting. We are battling right now with people wanting “organic”, we are just telling them that we want them to know their farmers and where their food comes from and at this point we don’t have a want/need to be considered “organic”. We like to think we are better than organic, just like the Salatins! Thanks Susan for this informative information!