Genetically modified foods are foods derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which is from a process in a lab 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 plus food, whether plant or animal-based, as a warning against the dangers of blind technology.

Sources of GMOs: 90 percent. That’s right, 90 percent or more of ALL corn, soybeans, rice, canola and cottonseed oils, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified! Often found in processed foods, GMOs are also found in fruits and vegetables and in alarming quantities in animal feed.

Here are some things to consider:

• All processed food items contain at least one or more genetically modified ingredients.

• Your favorite breakfast cereal is another item with a high level of GMOs.

• Dairy products 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 of pollen.

• Non-food items that may contain GM ingredients include cosmetics, shampoo, bubble bath, soaps and detergents. Pharmaceutical companies use 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 liver and kidney function, the heart, adrenal, spleen, and blood cells.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that several studies indicated serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, autism, arthritis, 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.

There are unique codes for organic, conventionally grown and genetically modified items. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, you’ll notice a PLU code on the 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 fifth digit indicates whether the fruit or vegetable is organic (prefixed by the No. 9), or whether the fruit or vegetable is GM (prefixed by an 8).

PLU Codes

• Conventional grown with chemicals. The PLU code consists of four numbers.

• GM genetically modified. The PLU code is prefaced with No. 8.

• Organic: The PLU code is prefaced with a No. 9. A conventionally grown apple would be 4021. A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) apple would be 8402. An organic apple would be 94021.

Processed foods are genetically modified foods that don’t carry PLU codes. Ingredients in processed food, specifically corn, canola oil and soy, are genetically modified foods.

Other foods that may contain GM ingredients are infant formula, peanut butter, protein powder, beer and alcohol, salad dressing, bread, cereal, cereals, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy and chewing gum, fried food, chips, margarine, mayonnaise, hamburgers and 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 farmer’s market.

• When eating at a restaurant, ask what oil they cook with.

• Read the list of ingredients. Specifically, avoid these risky ingredients:

- 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)

- Most Hawaiian papaya

• Buy only certified-organic products labeled as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic ingredients”

• Look for “verified non-GMO” labeling

• Use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at

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