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Five Simple Ways: Avoid GMOs

John Dill, citizen journalist

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1 Buy Certified Organic

Buy food products that have the USDA Certified organic seal on their packaging. A food product can only bear the USDA Certified organic seal if it has been certified organic and contains at least 95% of organically-produced ingredients. The remaining 5% of the product is specifically required to be non-GMO. While this may change in the future, the USDA's organic certification makes it a fairly safe bet that that product will be free of GMOs.

2 Shop Local Sources

Buy locally grown and produced food from your local mom-and-pop farmer, which are commonly available at farmer's markets. Currently, the genetic engineering of crops largely remains a technology for large-scale, corporate "factory farms." Produce from small and family-scale organic farms typically have yet to be genetically modified.

By buying locally sourced food, you not only get to avoid GMO foods but also support your farming neighbors and boost your local economy.

3 Look for Products Labeled "Non-GMO"

Shop for products that bear the non-GMO label or read "GMO free." This includes meat products such as beef, dairy and poultry. Livestock are commonly raised on GMO feed and/or may be injected with growth hormones such as rbGH.

4 Avoid Brands Containing At Risk Ingredients

Avoid foods that contain ingredients or derivatives from corn, soy, canola and cottonseed, which are the four most widely grown genetically modified crops. It can be particularly difficult to avoid cooking oils that contain GM ingredients, because most of them are blended with cottonseed or canola. Unless the label specifically indicates that the contents are non-GMO, it is highly likely that it contains GMO ingredients. Similarly, soy milk, tacos and corn chips are likely to contain GMOs unless labeled otherwise.

5 Use the Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide

Download and shop using the "Non-GMO Shopping Guide" offered by the non-profit Center for Food Safety (See the Reference Section below). You can print it out at home on a regular 8.5 x 11 paper or download it as an iPhone application. The shopping guide includes a list of products that are truly non-GMO, as well as tips on how to avoid buying food products that are most likely made from or contain GMOs.

The Non-GMO Project offers third party verification of food products that have been produced in accordance with rigorous best practices for avoiding GMOs. You can visit the Project's website to look up participating brands and companies that have enrolled their products in the Non-GMO Project Verification Program.


1. NC State University: What Does the "Organic" Label Really Mean?

2. Unintended GMO Health Risks

3. Non GMO Shopping Guide (pdf)

4. CBS News: Figuring Out What's In Your Food

About the author

John Dill begun writing as a freelancer in 2007, and has since written and published hundreds of online articles. He specializes in writing health, wellness and insurance-related articles and other web content for a number of online health publications, including Livestrong, Demand Studios and eHow.

Sept. 29, 2010