6 EASY WAYS TO AVOID GMO’S

Awareness about the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply is at an all-time high throughout America, thanks in large part to the Proposition 37 ballot initiative in California. But many people are now asking the question, “If GMOs aren’t labeled, how can I know whether or not the foods I buy contain them?” To help you make the best effort at avoiding GMOs while shopping at the grocery store, here are six recommendations on what to look for and what to avoid.

 

1. Corn, Soy, Cottonseed, Canola 

Avoid purchasing foods that contain non-organic soy, corn, cottonseed or canola ingredients. Practically every processed food found in the “middle aisle” section of the grocery store contains some form of soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola, all crops of which are typically GMO if not certified organic. Everything from cookies and crackers to cereals and snack food items contain them, which means you will want to avoid them like the plague.

Common ingredients to specifically watch out for include some of the more obvious ones like high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, and canola oil. But several others you will want to be aware of include soy lecithin, an emulsifier added to all sorts of foods, including “health” foods, as well as soy protein, textured vegetable protein, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), and food starch. Unless certified organic, all of these ingredients are likely GMO.

 

2. PLU Codes On Fruit & Veg 

If PLU code on fruits, vegetables starts with an “8,” avoid such produce. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, your first choice will want to be those labeled with a five-digit PLU that beginswith a “9,” which indicates that it is certified organic. Produce items containing a four-digit PLU are considered “conventional,” which means they are not technically GMO, but may still contain pesticides and other toxic residues. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a helpful shopping guide for picking out safe produce.

 

Produce items you will want to specifically and always avoid are those bearing a five-digit PLU beginning with the number “8,” as these are GMOs. The vast majority of non-organic papaya, as well as several varieties of non-organic zucchini and squash are also of GM origin, so you will want to specifically purchase organic varieties of these foods as well. Genetic manipulators are also now working on a GM apple that does not turn brown, so watch out for any apple that stays unnaturally white when sliced or bruised.

 

3. Sinister Sugars

Unless added sugar is specifically identified as “cane,” it likely comes from GM sugar beets. At least 90 percent of the sugar beet crop grown in the U.S. is of GM origin, which means if any food product contains “sugar” or some other sugar derivative like glucose or sucrose, it is more than likely a GMO. Always look for “cane sugar,” or preferably “evaporated cane juice,” in order to avoid GM sugar. Raw agave nectar, pure stevia extract, and xylitol are also safe, non-GMO sugar and sugar substitutes.

 

4. Artificial Sweeteners 

If it contains artificial sweetener, it likely contains GMOs. The popular artificial sugar substitute aspartame, which goes by the trade names Equal, NutraSweet and AminoSweet, is produced using GM bacterial strains of E. coli, which means it, too, is a GMO. Anything containing aspartame is a no-no when it comes to food.

 

5. Ambiguous Additives

Watch out for ambiguous additives like xanthan gum, citric acid, maltodextrin, and other common GMO offenders. Many common food texturizing agents, flavor enhancers, thickeners, sweeteners, and fortifiers are also derived from GMOs. Some of the more common offenders include ingredients like xanthan gum, citric acid, maltodextrin, lactic acid, dextrose, caramel color, baking powder, malt syrup, modified food starch, mono and diglycerides, sorbitol, stearic acid, and triglycerides. The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) has created a helpful list of “invisible GM ingredients” that you can reference while shopping.

 

“We are poisoning ourselves with highly processed, nutrient deficient foods.” – Dr Ian Brighthope (Food Matters Film)

6. Dairy Products

Avoid any dairy products that are non-organic, or that do not contain a “No rBGH” label. Unless a dairy product is specifically labeled as being certified organic, or as not containing the artificial growth hormone rBGH, which is sometimes labeled as rBST, it likely contains GMOs. Short for recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBGH is created using GMO E. coli just like aspartame, and is used in conventional cattle unless otherwise labeled.

 

This means that all non-organic yogurt, cheese, butter, milk, and ice cream that does not specifically bear a “No rBGH” label of some sort is likely made with GMOs. Non-organic dairy cows are also likely fed GM feed, which means your best bet is to stick only with certified organic or non-GMO dairy products at all times.

 

The Non-GMO Project has also developed a certification program by which food manufacturers can uniformly label food products not made with GMOs. Many food products now bear the Non-GMO Project “Verified” label, which will help give you peace of mind that the food you are buying is clean, safe, and free of GMOs.

 

You might also want to download the FREE 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, so that you can take it with you when you go shopping. It highlights the dirty dozen fruit and vegetables that are laden with pesticides and should be avoided unless they are organic, and the clean 15 that are OK to not buy organic if you don’t have access to them, as their pesticide levels are a lot lower.

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9 Things Everyone Should Know About Farmed Fish

If you eat seafood, unless you catch it yourself or ask the right questions, the odds are pretty good it comes from a fish farm. The aquaculture industry is like a whale on steroids, growing faster than any other animal agriculture segment and now accounting for half the fish eaten in the U.S.

As commercial fishing operations continue to strip the world’s oceans of life, with one-third of fishing stocks collapsed and the rest headed there by mid-century, fish farming is seen as a way to meet the world’s growing demand. But is it really the silver bullet to solve the Earth’s food needs? Can marine farms reliably satisfy the seafood cravings of three billion people around the globe?

This article looks at aquaculture and its long-term effects on fish, people, and other animals. With this industry regularly touted as a paragon of food production, whether you eat seafood or not, you should know these nine key facts about farmed fish.

1. Farmed fish have dubious nutritional value.

Here’s a frustrating paradox for those who eat fish for their health: the nutritional benefits of fish are greatly decreased when it’s farmed. Take omega-3 fatty acids. Wild fish get their omega-3’s from aquatic plants. Farmed fish, however, are often fed corn, soy, or other feedstuffs that contain little or no omega-3’s. This unnatural, high-corn diet also means some farmed fish accumulate unhealthy levels of the wrong fatty acids. Further, farmed fish are routinely dosed with antibiotics, which can cause antibiotic-resistant disease in humans.

2. The farmed fishing industry robs Peter to pay Paul.

While some farmed fish can live on diets of corn or soy, others need to eat fish – and lots of it. Tuna and salmon, for example, need to eat up to five pounds of fish for each pound of body weight. The result is that prey (fish like anchovies and herring) are being fished to the brink of extinction to feed the world’s fish farms. “We have caught all the big fish and now we are going after their food,” says the non-profit Oceana, which blames aquaculture’s voracious hunger for declines of whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, tuna, bass, salmon, albatross, penguins, and other species.

3. Fish experience pain and stress.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of many a catch-and-release angler, the latest research shows conclusively that fish experience pain and stress. In one study, fish injected with bee venom engaged in rocking behavior linked to pain and, compared to control groups, reduced their swimming activity, waited three times longer to eat, and had higher breathing rates. Farmed fish are subject to the routine stresses of hyperconfinement throughout their lives, and are typically killed in slow, painful ways like evisceration, starvation, or asphyxiation.

4. Farmed fish are loaded with disease, and this spreads to wild fish populations.

Farmed fish are packed as tightly as coins in a purse, with twenty-seven adult trout, for example, typically scrunched into a bathtub-sized space. These unnatural conditions give rise to diseases and parasites, which often migrate off the farm and infect wild fish populations. On Canada’s Pacific coast, for example, sea lice infestations are responsible for mass kill-offs of pink salmon that have destroyed 80% of the fish in some local populations. But the damage doesn’t end there, because eagles, bears, orcas, and other predators depend on salmon for their existence. Drops in wild salmon numbers cause these species to decline as well.

5. Fish farms are rife with toxins, which also damage local ecosystems.

You can’t have diseases and parasites infecting your economic units, so operators fight back by dumping concentrated antibiotics and other chemicals into the water. Such toxins damage local ecosystems in ways we’re just beginning to understand. One study found that a drug used to combat sea lice kills a variety of nontarget marine invertebrates, travels up to half a mile, and persists in the water for hours.

6. Farmed fish are living in their own feces.

That’s right, fish poop too. Farmed fish waste falls as sediment to the seabed in sufficient quantities to overwhelm and kill marine life in the immediate vicinity and for some distance beyond. It also promotes algal growth, which reduces water’s oxygen content and makes it hard to support life. When the Israeli government learned that algal growth driven by two fish farms in the Red Sea was hurting nearby coral reefs, it shut them down.

7. Farmed fish are always trying to escape their unpleasant conditions, and who can blame them?

In the North Atlantic region alone, up to two million runaway salmon escape into the wild each year. The result is that at least 20% of supposedly wild salmon caught in the North Atlantic are of farmed origin. Escaped fish breed with wild fish and compromise the gene pool, harming the wild population. Embryonic hybrid salmon, for example, are far less viable than their wild counterparts, and adult hybrid salmon routinely die earlier than their purebred relatives. This pressure on wild populations further hurts predators who rely on fish like bears and orcas.

8. See: the Jevons Paradox.

This counterintuitive economic theory says that as production methods grow more efficient, demand for resources actually increases – rather than decreasing, as you might expect. Accordingly, as aquaculture makes fish production increasingly efficient, and fish become more widely available and less expensive, demand increases across the board. This drives more fishing, which hurts wild populations. Thus, as the construction of new salmon hatcheries from 1987 to 1999 drove lower prices and wider availability of salmon, world demand for salmon increased more than fourfold during the period. The net result: fish farming cranks up the pressure on already-depleted populations of wild fish around the world.

9. When the heavy environmental damage they cause is taken into account, fish farming operations often are found to generate more costs than revenues.

One study found that aquaculture in Sweden’s coastal waters “is not only ecologically but also economically unsustainable.” Another report concluded that fish farming in a Chinese lake is an “economically irrational choice from the perspective of the whole society, with an unequal tradeoff between environmental costs and economic benefits.” Simply put, aquaculture drives heavy ecological harms and these cost society money. In the U.S., fish farming drives hidden costs of roughly $700 million each year – or half the annual production value of fish farming operations.

Now What?

With its long trail of diseases, chemicals, wastes, and suffering, and the heavy pressure it puts on wild populations through parasites, escapes, and higher demand, the sustainability of fish farms emerges as a fish story. And by the way, farmed or wild, fish are only “healthy” when compared to high-fat foods like red meat. But wild fish is no great nutritional treat either: pound for pound, salmon has just as much cholesterol as ground beef, and virtually all wild fish contains highly-toxic mercury.

Here’s one solution to the farmed fish dilemma: vote with your pocketbook and eat less seafood or give it up completely. Get your omega-3’s from flax, hemp, soy, or walnuts – all without cholesterol or mercury. And just maybe, as George W. Bush hoped in a moment of unintended comedy, “the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.”