Do You Know Nutrition: Understanding food labels

By Phylis Canion
Oct. 8, 2013 at 5:08 a.m.

I am a bit confused about all of the GMO, non-GMO labeling on food packaging. I see more of the Non-GMO Project labeled on foods and would like to know exactly what this means. Would appreciate your comments.

GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants or animals created through gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

Because the quality of our food supply is intimately connected with political and regulatory decisions and it is difficult for consumers to stay abreast of changes in food ingredients and their toxicity (with the exceptional of reading my column), the non-GMO Project was created.

The Non-GMO Project is a nonprofit organization committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products through labeling and education of consumers providing verified non-GMO choices.

The verification seal, a seal with a green sprig and a butterfly with the words "Non-GMO Project verified," indicates that the product has gone through a strict verification process and is an assurance that a product has been produced by the best practices for GMO avoidance.

If you see a product that has "GMO-free," be very leery of its labeling. "GMO-free" and similar claims are not legally or scientifically defensible because of limitations of testing methodology. In addition, the risk of contamination to seeds, crops, ingredients and products is too high to reliably claim the product is GMO-free.

While the Non-GMO Project's verification seal is not a "GMO-free" claim, it is trustworthy, defensible, transparent and North America's only independent verification for a product made, according to the best practices for GMO avoidance. It is important to know that GMO high-risk crops are alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets, zucchini and yellow squash.

Also considered high risk for GMOs are animal products such as milk, meat, eggs and honey because of the contamination in feed. Common ingredients derived from GMO risk crops are aspartame, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, textured vegetable protein, monosodium glutamate and flavorings. Look for the Non-GMO Project label, usually found on the front of products, proudly displayed by the manufacturer.

Thought for the week: Do not go where the path may lead - go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

The next free nutrition class is Monday at Organic Emporium. The next cooking class is Oct. 16 at the Cooking Depot. Call 371-275-2725 to make your reservation.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant; email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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