We’ve already discussed 4 reasons to avoid genetically-modified organisms (GMO) or GMO foods. Today we cover how to avoid GMO foods, since there’s no way to know if you’re eating genetically-modified food in North America. So here’s what you can do to make sure genetically modified food isn’t part of your regular diet:

1. Avoid foods that are most likely to be genetically-modified

In Canada, four GM-crops are currently grown. (While only four are currently grown, you can find a complete list of Genetically-Modified Foods and Novel Foods that have been approved in Canada).

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i) Soybeans

93% of all soybeans grown in the US and more than 65% of all soybeans in Canada are genetically modified to be herbicide resistant. There are plenty of reasons not to eat soy in the first place (it’s high in phytoestrogens which can block natural estrogen and it’s high in phytic acid which can block mineral absorption), so avoiding genetically-modified food is yet another reason not to eat soybeans.

Avoid GMO soy:

You might think you’re safe by just avoiding soy milk, tofu or edamame at your favorite sushi joint, but flip over to the ingredients list on just about any processed food, and you’ll find soy in the form of soybean oil or ‘vegetable’ oil, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin. If you have a food sensitivity to soy, you may find that you react when eating some eggs or meat because the animals were given soy feed.

ii) Corn

At least 65% in Canada and ~88% in the US of all corn is genetically-modified to be both insect-resistant and herbicide tolerant. A study linking GM corn to cancer has been under criticism; it was the first long-term study on the effects of eating genetically modified foods. Even if the study is under criticism, should it not be worrisome that it’s the only long-term study, despite the fact that GM-foods have been in our food system since the 1990s?

Avoid GMO corn:

Even your summertime favorite, sweet corn is in danger of being a genetically-modified food. Beyond corn-on-the-cob and popcorn, corn is found in abundance in many processed foods. It’s labelled as HFCS or high-fructose corn syrup, corn oil or ‘vegetable’ oil, corn starch, dextrose, dextrin and many other forms. Like soy, it is widely used in animal feed, and there may be implications in eating animals that have been fed corn, if you have a corn sensitivity.

iii) Canola

About 90% of all Canola in the US and Canada is genetically modified. Unlike corn and soy, canola is not consumed in any other form, except as a ‘vegetable’ oil. Even if it weren’t a GM-food, cooking with canola oil may not be advisable because it is a polyunsaturated fat, which means from a chemical point of view, it has a lot of double-bonds. To skip over the organic chemistry 101 lesson, lots of double-bonds means that it’s highly unstable and delicate (unlike a saturated fat, which is more stable), and therefore more subject to oxidizing and going rancid. Better to choose a coconut oil for higher heat or a quality olive oil for dressings instead!

Avoid GMO canola:

Canola oil is often blended with other ‘vegetable’ oils like corn and soy.

iv) Sugar Beets

About 90% of all sugar beets grown in the US have been genetically-modified to resist herbicides. Unlike the red beets you see in the produce aisle, sugar beets are used to make processed table sugar.

Avoid GMO sugar beets:

Only one company, Lantic,  in Canada processes sugar beets into table sugar, but about half of the white, refined sugar in the US is from GM sugar beets.

2. Don’t Eat Processed Food

As you’ll notice above, the big four GM-foods are all abundant in processed food as fillers, stabilizers, sweeteners and vegetable oils. Be vigilant about reading labels on your food, or better yet, don’t buy food that has a label – that is, eat whole, nutrient-dense foods instead of things that are ready-made in a box.

3. Buy Organic and Good Quality

Buying organic produce and food products that are certified organic will help you avoid GMOs since food labelled as ‘organic’ cannot knowingly have any genetically-modified components.

For meat, you’ll want to look for not only organically-raised animals, but grass-fed too.

4. Support Local Farmers

Shop your farmers’ markets! The biggest users of genetically-modified seeds are large industrial farms, and not smaller family farms. Knowing the grower of your food and how they feel about GMOs can help you make more informed choices.

5. Plant a Garden

Take matters into your own hands and grow your own food. You’ll learn to appreciate the effort it takes to grow food and you’ll know exactly how it was grown and what went into your food.