How to Avoid Genetically-Modified Foods in Your Diet

How to Avoid Genetically-Modified Foods in Your Diet

(Last Updated On: April 17, 2019)

How to Avoid Genetically-Modified Foods in Your DietGrocery shopping is more complicated than it used to be. At one time you only had to worry about not forgetting an item on your shopping list. These days you have to consider whether to buy conventional or organic produce and whether a food item you’re dropping into your shopping cart has been genetically modified. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly hard to avoid GMO foods since genetically-modified foods now make up around 70% of the food on grocery store shelves. That’s not good news if you’re trying to avoid them. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid adding GMO foods to your shopping cart.

What Are Genetically-Modified Foods?

Genetically-modified foods, also referred to as GMOs, is food that comes from organisms that have had their genes altered. Genetic modification is commonly used to make genetically-modified plants that are more resistant to disease, chemicals or pesticides that might kill them prematurely. Manufacturers use genetic engineering techniques to introduce new genes into organisms or alter the ones they have so they have survival advantages or require less time and money to maintain. Another way genetic modification can be used is to increase the nutritional value of certain foods.

Not surprisingly, there are concerns that changing an organism’s genes could have serious repercussions for human, plant and animal health as well as the health of the environment. For example, plants modified to resist pests could affect the health of animals that feed off of them. This also reduces diversity among species, which is important for health and for the survival of plant and animal life.

No one is sure what the long-term health effects of genetically-modified foods might be. One of the biggest concerns is the risk of allergic reactions. For example, if a person is allergic to soybeans, and a protein from the soybean was used to genetically alter another food, that person may experience an allergic reaction to the genetically-modified food. There’s also some concern that GMO foods may not be as easily recognized by immune cells, and this could increase the risk of autoimmune problems.

If You’re Concerned about GMOs, How Can You Avoid Them?

Unfortunately, GMO foods are more prevalent than most people realize. Soybean oil, corn oil, and canola oil are commonly used to manufacture processed foods, and there’s no requirement that a product that contains genetically-modified ingredients has to say so on the label. This means you have to use a little detective work to avoid them.

One way to avoid genetically-modified foods is to buy items that are certified organic. If you buy beef, look for beef that’s grass-fed. Otherwise, you run the risk of purchasing meat from a cow that was fed genetically-modified corn. Another option is to grow some of your own produce or buy it from a local farm.

If you don’t have organic produce readily available in your area, take a close look at the sticker on fresh produce before you buy it. The sticker has a number called the price look-up number of PLU. Genetically-modified produce has five digit number that begins with “8.” If it was grown organically, the PLU should be five digits in length and begin with a “9.” Conventional produce has four digit numbers that usually begin with a “3” or “4.”

Avoid processed foods as much as possible, and stay away from corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil since these have commonly been genetically modified. Use extra-virgin olive oil whenever possible. Food additives, flavorings, and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy are also commonly genetically modified. Avoid margarine since it commonly contains genetically-modified oils.

 The Bottom Line?

The verdict is still out on the health risks of GMOs, but they have the potential to upset the ecological balance. Some say this may not bode well for human health or the health of plants and animals.



Ohio State University Extension. “The Impact of Genetically Modified Organisms on Human Health”

Integrative Nutrition. Integrative Nutrition Publishing. Joshua Rosenthal (2008)

World Health Organization. “20 Questions on Genetically-Modified Foods”


Related Articles By Cathe:

7 Foods Most Likely to Be Genetically Modified

Are Hybrid Fruits and Vegetables Healthy – or Not?

6 Myths about Organic Foods

Food Labeling: What Do Those Supermarket Labels Really Mean?

4 thoughts on “How to Avoid Genetically-Modified Foods in Your Diet

  1. The European Commission funded A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research which used over 130 research projects, 25 years of research, and 500 independent research groups to determine that “biotechnology, in particular GMOS, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies” (European Commission, A Decade of EU-Funded GMO Research). Dr. Hanna Tuomisto, from Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, found in a September 2012 study that organic farming can actually be more harmful for some parts of the environment. In September 2012, Stanford scientists concluded from a meta-analysis of 237 studies, spanning from 1966-2011, that on average fruits and vegetables labeled organic were “no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts.” Organics were also not “any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli” than conventionally grown crops. In August 2012, Thomas Bernauer, Switzerland’s National Science Foundation delegate, summarized the findings from a five year study of agricultural products. The scientists and researches all came to the same conclusion in over 30 projects, finding that biotech crops “did not reveal any risk for human health of the environment”.

  2. I am amazed at how often a new, safe food, diet, drug, etc. comes out only to be found harmful in a few years. Man’s efforts at making nutritious “foods” can not compare to God’s perfect, natural foods that were designed for our optimal health. I am convinced that a diet rich in whole foods is the only way of being certian you are getting beneficial nutrition. Thank you for this article.

  3. “Why Do Supporters of Genetically Engineered Foods Insist on Organics for Their Own Families? ”

    Go to to check out the above-titled article. The article reports on how the last few presidents from the elder Bush to the current Obama have insisted on organic foods to be used at the White House. Even presidential contender Mitt Romney’s travel plane has organic food and his wife has been a long time consumer of organic products. However, these presidents and the contender have been strong supporters of GMOs in food for the rest of us. There must be some danger connected with or strong concern about the effects of GMOs if the presidential families are favoring organic and non-GMO foodstuffs for their consumption.

  4. In response to (name required), who do you think funded (maybe discreetly) the study that said organics were no better than GMO’s? The pesticide companies don’t want to lose their profits. Maybe years down the road, they will be proven safe, but seeds that are patented can only be studied by the owners and they claim “no problems”. Farmers who live across the road from GM crops can be sued if wind drift causes their crops to be contaminated. How fair is that? If your a Cathlete who lives in California or has friends or family there, urge them to vote yes on “Prop. 37”. This is to get GMO containing foods labeled. We have the right to know! These biotech and pesticide giants are spending $1 million dollars a day to confuse voters so this won’t pass. Now if they are completely safe, why don’t they just go along with this??? What do they know that we don’t. Thank you Cathe for bringing up this very important issue.

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