Green Scene Blog: Avoiding Frankenfoods


Folks, this post is by Wendy Vigdor-Hess, local nutrition expert and the author of Sweetness Without Sugar. She explains why it’s so tricky to keep from eating GMOs.

Genetically modified organisms have been shown to cause significant health problems. A few examples include neurotoxicity (toxic to the brain), depressed immune function, cancer, and fertility or reproductive concerns. To learn more of the basics about GMOs and the potential adverse effects to humans and the environment, see my earlier post.

While the whats and the hows of the GMO situation are muddled and can feel overwhelming, a safe health bet is to avoid them as much as possible. A saying that has served me in the past and present is “We know what we know when we know it.”

Even though GMOs (or “Frankenfoods”) are present in staggering amounts in our food supply, there are some easy ways to avoid them or ingredients derived from GMO crops (e.g. high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame, textured vegetable protein and more).

Let’s begin with labeling. Though many marketers now use the words “all natural” or “natural,” this does not mean free from GMOs. Joe Dickson, the quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods Markets, has even stated “There’s no way to tell if packaged products contain GMO ingredients.”

Even the label “made with organic ingredients” means only 70 percent of the ingredients must be organic, though 100 percent of them must be non-GMO. Yet confusion abounds: Even with the above labeling, some ingredients thought to be healthy may, in fact, be derived from GMO corn. Examples include vitamin C, ascorbic acid and amino acids.

In some companies or suppliers, regulation exists that allows only certain people to test for GMOs. It has been suggested that some of the testers may have connections with companies such as Monsanto who are manufacturing and using GMOs. Whether this is true or not, it creates an opening for us to take this matter seriously and determine facts for ourselves.

Local events of interest are sprouting up. Don Patterson made a presentation March 14 at Rebecca’s Natural Foods on the health impacts of the Monsanto Agricultural System, along with more about the dangers of biotech farming to our environment. And on Thursday, March 22, check out the free public film “The World According to Monsanto” at C’ville Coffee, 6:30-8:30pm.

In addition, I am completing a non-GMO shopping guide for our area. More information forthcoming!