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7 Quick Tips to Help You Avoid Genetically Modified (GMO) Food

In my last article, I talked about the importance of GMO labeling. Unfortunately, what seems like a “no-brainer” is not yet a reality in America.

So what do you do in the meantime? Learn the best ways to avoid buying genetically modified foods. Here are 7 tips to get you started:

1. Buy organic. Look for the USDA Organic label on packaged foods and for stickers designating “organic” on produce (see tip #5 for more information on produce). USDA Organic foods cannot intentionally contain genetically modified ingredients.USDA Organic Label

2. Look for the Non GMO Project seal. According to, “The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, offers North America’s only third party verification and labeling for non-GMO (genetically modified organism) food and products. We currently have over 27,000 Non-GMO Project Verified products from 1,500 brands, representing well over $11 Billion in annual sales. Non-GMO Project Verified is currently one of the fastest growing labels in the natural food sector, and increasingly is an attribute sought by conventional brands as well.”Non GMO Project Logo

If you can buy foods that bear both the USDA Organic label AND the Non GMO Project seal, you’ve hit the jackpot! That’s as good as it gets. Well, almost…see tip #7 for the most certain way to avoid GMOs.

3. Learn which foods have a greater chance of being genetically modified. At this time, the following crops have the highest degree of genetic modification:

  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Sugar

There are a number of others as well. The Non GMO Shopping Guide is a great resource for a more comprehensive list. You can download it here.

4. When it comes to dairy, always try to buy organic, and avoid anything that’s “ultra-pasteurized.” Dairy is a big topic and the subject of another article, but the key point is to stress organic here whenever possible. Look for that USDA Organic label. If you can’t find organic, look for dairy that is produced from cows not given the rBGH or rBST hormones.

5. Learn how to read fruit and vegetable labels. This is a handy tip that I’ve recently learned myself. Not all fruits and vegetables will have labels, but those that do can give you great insight into the way the food was grown.

  • If the label has a 4 digit number, it has been conventionally produced (meaning it’s NOT organic).
  • If the label has a 5 digit number beginning with the number 9, it IS organically grown. Yeah!
  • If the label has a 5 digit number beginning with the number 8, it’s a GMO. Don’t buy it!

6. When it comes to meat, buy chicken that is labeled organic so you’re not eating meat that was raised on GMO feed. For beef, buy 100% grass fed. If that grass fed beef is labeled organic, even better!

7. Grow your own food. This is a big one, and it’s the only way you can be completely sure that you’re getting GMO free food. I realize this is a big leap for most people and seemingly impossible for many. But consider starting small. Grow a few herbs in small pots on your kitchen windowsill. It’s fun! Maybe from there you’ll try experimenting with a tomato plant in a pot on your patio or balcony!

These are the guidelines I use at the grocery store. If you follow these simple steps, you’re well on your way to avoiding most genetically modified foods.

3 comments… add one
  • Great info on the fruits and vegetables labeling. Never knew that.

  • Great articles! I am curious about the tip ‘grow your own food’. My Dad (not an authority on this subject by any means but he watches a lot of tv…) says that growing your own food does not mean it’s not from a GMO seed … He says you can be certain it’s organic that way but you can’t know whether it’s GMO or not unless the seed says so. Is that true?

    • Great question, Julie! That’s absolutely correct. GMO crops actually start from seed, so genetically modified seeds are certainly available.

      When starting your own plant from seed, you should look for organic seeds. That will assure that the plants you grow are organic (as long as you comply with organic standards, of course, and don’t do things like spray pesticides on them!). If you can find heirloom organic seeds, even better. Heirloom seeds are the “original” crops that haven’t been hybridized. Perhaps you’ve had heirloom tomatoes? They’re not exactly uniform and pretty, but they are delicious and super healthy.

      Thanks for the question!


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