How to Avoid GMOs when Shopping
1) Always Choose USDA Organic and/or Non-GMO Project Verified Products
USDA Organic products cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients. Get the full story about organics and GMOs here >
Products bearing the “Non-GMO Project” verified seal indicate these products went through a separate certification process.
2) Download a Free Smart Phone App
Note: so far I’ve found no smart phone apps that address non-GMO sources for Canada (and I’ve been following this website for a while, hoping one might show up). If you know of one, please comment below!
- The Center for Food Safety offers a True Food Shopper’s Guide for the iPhone and Android (search for “True Food” — it’s the app that has a “fist holding a fork” icon).
- FooduCate allows you to scan a product bar code to identify GMOs and other potentially harmful ingredients.
- NxtNutrio also allows you to scan a product bar code to identify GMOs and other potentially harmful ingredients, then they take it one step further, allowing you to set up a profile for allergies / food sensitivities, and even make a comment on a product.
- BuyCott (versus boycott) allows you to scan barcodes to identify if a brand is one of the organic food companies that gave money to support California’s GMO labeling measure. It can also be used to boycott anti-GMO labeling companies if that’s your thing.
- IPIIT the Food Ambassador (available for android and iphone) allows you to designate the ingredients you wish to avoid (including GMOs, specific food allergens, or other harmful ingredients), and scan the product’s bar code to find out if the product contains any of those ingredients. If it does, the app provides suggestions on better / alternative products.
- ShopNoGMO had an app for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s currently on the “temporarily unavailable” list as of May 2013. Upgrades coming, I hope?
- You’ll find a few other food-related iPhone apps in this article.
3) Use a Printed List
Don’t have a smart phone? No problem. Download one (or more) of the following Non-GMO Shopping Guides and carry it in your wallet or purse:
- Non-GMO Project’s Shopping Guide
- Center for Food Safety’s Shopper’s Guide
- Institute for Responsible Technology’s Shopping Guide
- Mercola’s Non-GMO Shopping Guide
- Canada’s GMO Shopper’s Guide from Greenpeace
4) Choose GMO-Free / Family-Owned Organic Brands
- This page contains an alphabetized list of GMO-free food brands.
- This page provides a list of family/privately-owned organic brands who are OPPOSED to GMOs / contain no GMOs (remember, USDA Organic = GMO free!)
- This page lists the mega corporation-owned organic brands (many of whose parent companies donated millions of dollars to oppose GMO labeling; choose these brands only if you have no other choice for avoiding GMOs… your shopping dollars eventually “trickle upstream” to prevent labeling!)
5) Find Organic Grocery (and other) Stores in Your Area
6) Buy Organics Online (if you can’t find them locally)
If you aren’t having much luck finding anything in your area, consider getting your organics delivered from one of these online organic companies.
7) Find Farms, CSAs, and Organic Restaurants in Your Area
There are a number of websites that let you locate organic farms, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture: locally grown organic produce delivered to your door), farmer’s markets, and organic restaurants in your area by location and/or zip code. These include:
- Eat Wild: U.S. and Canada
- FarmMatch: U.S.
- Eat Local Grown: U.S.
- Certified Naturally Grown: U.S. + Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario
- Local Harvest: U.S. and southern Canada
- Organic Food Database: U.S. and a few farms in Canada and Australia
- Green Restaurant Association: find “certified green” restaurants
8) Locate your Nearest Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter
Many people have never heard of this organization, whose mission is to “restore nutrient-dense foods to the human diet through education, research and activism.” When all else fails, try contacting one of their local chapters, which can be an excellent source to help you find locally-grown organic and biodynamic vegetables, fruits and grains, raw milk and organic dairy products, as well as eggs, chicken and meat from pasture-raised animals.
Many large grocery chains such as Safeway, Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Giant Foods, and others have developed their own in-house, privately labeled “Organic” brands. These are often a more affordable way to choose organics for your family. But are they GMO-free? That all depends…
If the product you are purchasing under their in-house organic label also bears the USDA Organic symbol, then that product can not intentionally contain any GMOs. However if you do not see this label, you must personally decide if you trust the store’s marketing claims about their sourcing, manufacturing, and certification process, since there is typically no publicly available documentation about any of these aspects. Here are a few examples of why some consumers are beginning to doubt these in-house labels:
Trader Joe’s insists that all Trader Joe’s branded products are sourced from GMO free ingredients. However many consumer groups are not convinced, because Trader Joe’s does not reveal the name of their “third party lab,” nor do they reveal their actual ingredient sources. In fact it was only after a salmonella outbreak traced back to Trader Joe’s peanut butter that the source of their peanut butter was revealed. Read our blog post about this issue here; here’s a second and a third article… and decide for yourself.
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods maintains their own brand called 365 Everyday Value, in which “all ingredients derived from plants are sourced to avoid GMOs, and hundreds of those products are verified by the Non-GMO Project.” They are currently working to have both the organic and conventional products within the 365 line certified by Non GMO Project. However a recent Cornucopia Report claims to have found more than 50% GMO corn in Whole Foods’ 365 brand cornflakes…
Safeway claims it follows USDA Organic methods to ensure its “O Organic” line delivers what it promises. However just like Trader Joe’s, Safeway does not reveal its ingredient sources nor the names of its certification laboratory(ies). Furthermore, Safeway is a dues paying member of the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association—an organization that donated $2 million to defeat GMO labeling in California, and as of early Summer 2013, donated $472,500 (twice the amount of the next largest donor) in the movement to defeat GMO labeling initiative I-522 in Washington state.
For Additional Recommendations about Avoiding GMOs…
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