When To Buy Organic Produce
Concerned about pesticides or genetically modified (GMO) foods? Thinking about buying organic? Organic produce offers many benefits as they are grown in rich soil and contain higher levels of nutrients than conventional produce. They are also grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. However, if you are not ready or able to purchase all organic, then consider avoiding the most pesticide-laden produce from your diet.
The Environmental Working Group (EWP) has published a ‘dirty dozen’ list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of pesticides. Rinsing will reduce but not eliminate pesticides. Peeling helps, but valuable nutrients can be lost with the skin. Below is the 2020 list. See Updated List.
Genetically Modified Foods
Michael Pollan summed up the problem with GMOs in his phrase “playing God in the garden” in an 1998 New York Times article. To Pollen, the two most disturbing concepts of GMO are that: 1. GMOs forcibly cross two living species that the laws of nature have been designed to prevent from mating. Conventional breeding has built-in limits. Nature will not allow DNA to mix if it comes form species that are too far apart. 2. We are manipulating the DNA of living organisms for our own purposes (and profit).
The Bible reveals God's good plan for each species to remain separate, reproducing according to its own kind. Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1:11-13, NKJV)
Can you tell if food is GMO from the label? Sadly, no. China, Japan, the EU, Korea, Australia and New Zealand require foods containing GMOs to be labeled, and countries like the UK have banned GMOs for the most part. However, the FDA does not require US farmers or food manufacturers to mention genetically modified plants among the ingredients on product labels, and the FDA considers both GM and non-GM foods safe for human and animal consumption. Some states, like California, are hoping to change this.
One way to avoid GMO foods is to buy organic. Certified organic products are not allowed to contain any GMOs. Therefore, when you purchase products labeled “100%organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients,” all ingredients in these products are not allowed to be produced from GMOs. For example, products labeled as “made with organic ingredients” only require 70% of the ingredients to be organic, but 100% must be non-GMO.
Thankfully, only four fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce isle currently for sale in the U.S. are genetically modified. Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and some corn on the cob may be GM. The only commercialized GM fruit is papaya from Hawaii—about half of Hawaii’s papayas are GM.
You can also check the PLU (price look-up) code affixed to produce to find organically grown produce. If the label has a 4-digit number, then the food is conventionally grown. A 5-digit number beginning with a 9 is organic. A five digit number beginning with an 8 is designated for genetically modified foods; however, it is not currently being used. (Probably because most Americans say they would avoid GMOs if they were labeled.) Therefore, unless foods are organic or labeled non-GMO, it could be GMO.
However, venture away from the produce isle and you will encounter many processed foods made with GM foods – including cereals, baby formula, sauces, frozen foods, baked goods and much more. The main four GM ingredients are corn (found in corn flour, meal, oil, starch, gluten, syrups, and sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose), soy (found in vegetable oil, soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate, isoflavone), canola (canola oil is also called rapeseed oil) and cotton (cottonseed oil). GM sugar from sugar beets has recently entered the food supply and can therefore be in anything made with sugar except organic and non-GMO sweeteners, or sugar from 100% cane sugar, evaporated cane juice or organic sugar. Aspartame (also known as NutraSweet and Equal) is also derived from GM microorganisms.
Nutritional Consultants can provide complete shopping guides to help you shop wisely and avoid GMOs.