Just say no to GMOs — what you need to know

… the code on the sticker of a conventionally grown apple would be 4021, a genetically engineered apple would be 84021 and an organic apple would be 94021.

by Paula Owens — 

Genetically modified (GM) foods are derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are formulated in a laboratory where genes are taken from one species and inserted into another, in an attempt to obtain a desired characteristic or trait.

Often referred to as Frankenfoods, GMOs are chemical-laden seeds that alter and disrupt DNA. The term Frankenfoods was derived from “Frankenstein” and food (whether plant- or animal-based) as a warning against the dangers of blind technology.

Sources of GMOs

Ninety percent (yes, 90 percent or more) of all corn, soybeans, rice, sugar beets and canola and cottonseed oils grown in the U.S. are genetically modified. Often found in processed foods, GMOs are now also found in fruits and vegetables and in alarming quantities of animal feed. These include the following:

  • All processed food items which contain at least one or more genetically modified ingredient
  • Most breakfast cereals
  • Dairy products that come from cows injected with rbGM, a GM hormone
  • Meat and eggs from animals that have eaten GM feed (i.e., corn and soy)
  • Food additives, enzymes, flavorings and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
  • Flaxseed oil and vegetable oils
  • Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources from pollen
  • Non-food items containing GM ingredients including cosmetics, shampoos, bubble baths, soaps and detergents
  • Aspartame in some laxatives, supplements and children’s vitamins

Dangers of GM foods

A study published in the Journal of Biological Science revealed numerous health hazards from GMOs and pesticides — specifically in liver and kidney function, and the heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that several studies indicated serious health risks associated with the ingesting of GM foods, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, arthritis, autism, increased food allergies, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Children, newborns and pregnant women face the greatest potential hazards from GM food.

Are the fruits and vegetables you buy genetically modified?

Unique codes are in place for organic, conventionally grown and genetically modified items. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, you will notice a PLU code on its sticker, which is usually four digits. The numbers on the sticker can tell you if the tomato is genetically modified.

A fifth digit may be prefixed to the code. This digit indicates whether the fruit or vegetable is organic (prefixed by the numeral 9) or whether the fruit or vegetable is GM (prefixed by an 8).

PLU codes

• Conventionally grown with chemicals — the PLU code consists of 4 numbers.

• Genetically modified — the PLU code begins with a number 8.

• Organic — the PLU code begins with a number 9.

For example, the code on the sticker of a conventionally grown apple would be 4021, a genetically engineered apple would be 84021 and an organic apple would be 94021.

Processed foods and ingredients therein — specifically corn, canola oil and soy — have been genetically modified and do not carry PLU codes.

Other foods that may contain GM ingredients include: infant formula, peanut butter, protein powder, beer and alcohol, salad dressing, bread, cereal, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, chewing gum, fried food, chips, margarine, mayonnaise, hamburgers, hotdogs, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, baking powder, vanilla, powdered sugar, enriched flour and pasta.

How to avoid GMOs

• Educate yourself on how to avoid GM foods.

• Shop at your local farmers’ market.

• When eating at a restaurant, ask what kind of oil is used for cooking.

• Read the list of ingredients on all products.

Specifically, avoid risky ingredients such as: soybeans (soybean oil, soy protein, soy lecithin, soy milk, tofu and other soy-based ingredients); corn (corn oil, cornmeal, cornstarch and other corn-based ingredients); canola (canola oil) and cottonseed (cottonseed oil); sugar beets (listed as “sugar” on the list of ingredients); and most Hawaiian papaya.

Buy only certified-organic products labeled as “100% organic,” “organic” or “made with organic ingredients;” look for “verified non-GMO” labeling; and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at

Sources, and


Paula Owens, M.S., is a nutritionist, certified fitness expert and holistic health practitioner with more than 20 years of experience in the natural health, nutrition and fitness industry. She is the author of The Power of 4 and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and weight-loss program.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 2, April/May 2012.

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