One of my not-so-extended male relatives steadfastedly refuses to buy organic. No amount of talk about pesticides, overuse of synthetic fertilizers, or factory farm cruelty will sway his view. He lives in the heart of GMO corn and soybean country, which may have something to do with his opinion. So the news that there's now an iPhone application - it's new! it's free! - that will help you avoid genetically modified ingredients while shopping would sound absolutely ludicrous to my "uncle." Lo and behold, however - this view would put my "uncle" in the minority of Americans.ShopNoGMO
According to the Institute for Responsible Technology(IRT), which developed the ShopNoGMO application for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, 9 out of 10 Americans would like products with GMOs in them labeled, while 53% say they would avoid buying GMO products if they were labeled as such.
IRT's founder and vocal GMO opponent Jeffrey M. Smith says that he believes it will take only about 5% of U.S. shoppers rejecting GMO foods for food producers to start listening. (He bases this view, he says, on the fact that shoppers began to reject genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in the milk supply back in 2002, and in 2005 a tipping point was reached, causing a number of dairies to go rBGH free.)
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on GMOs in U.S. foods, citing a number of animal studies that show there is, "more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."
On the other side of the fence, scientists including Nina Fedoroff, chief scientist of current Secretary of State Clinton, and the UK's John Boddington insist GMO crops are needed to fight world hunger and develop new plants to deal with a changing climate.
Viewing hundreds of products in 22 categories that are GMO free as you peruse the aisles of the grocery store is one way to avoid the possible allergic and/or toxic reactions that have been documented with GMO-containing foodstuffs.
There's also another way. Simply eat organic food as much as possible. Although processed food that says "made with organic ingredients" only needs to contain 70% organic ingredients, it must be 100% GMO free. Some of the most common genetically engineered ingredients in U.S. food are corn, sweetners made from corn such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose, modified food starch, soy products including soy flour, soy lecithin, and soy protein; vegetable oil and vegetable protein, and canola and cottonseed oil. GMO beet sugar also recently entered the market, according to the IRT, and so any product not listed as 100% cane sugar could have GMO beet sugar in it.
While an all-organic diet is the most thorough way to cut back on intake of genetically modified organisms, it can be especially tricky for vegetarians and vegans. This is one area where the IRT guide can come in handy - it lets you know which of the alternative meat products in stores absolutely don't contain GMO ingredients, and which may be suspect. (There's also a .pdf version of the ShopNoGMO guide).
To pick up the free iPhone ShopNoGMO app, go to the iTunes store.
To read more about genetically modified foods at TreeHugger:
GMO Bans, Laws, and Labels From Around the World
GMO-Free Regions: A Growing Trend, Except in the United States
Your GM Entree May Come With An Order of Side Effects