It’s estimated that up to 70 percent of processed foods in Australia contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But here’s the rub – very rarely are these ingredients labelled. Our extraordinarily lax labelling laws mean that you are unlikely to see the words “contains GMOs” on any product that hasn’t come from overseas.
So how can you avoid GMO foods in Australia?
First, learn where they’re most likely to lurk. Australia grows genetically modified canola and cotton, both of which are largely used as oils. The vast majority of GM ingredients in our food come from the US, where almost all of the soy and corn crops are now grown from genetically modified seed.
Both soy and corn are used to make a wide variety of food additives and can be found in everything from sauces to spreads, cakes to cookies, and chocolate to breakfast cereal.
Here’s what to look out for:
- Canola oil: often described as “vegetable oil”.
- Corn products: glucose, glucose syrup, fructose, maltodextrin and thickener/modified starches (1410, 1412).
- Soy products: soy lecithin (additive/emulsifier 322), soy oil, soy protein, vegetable protein.
- Cottonseed oil: Often labelled as “vegetable oil”, used for deep-frying and popular with takeaway food shops and restaurants.
To avoid GMO foods, take the following steps:
- Go through your pantry and read the ingredients carefully, identify anything that looks suss and never buy it again (don’t just throw it away, though!)
- Commit to eating more fresh foods and fewer processed foods.
- Buy organic where possible, as GMOs are banned under the organic system
- Make your own biscuits, cakes, dips, sauces etc with ingredients you trust
- Question your meat producers – unless labelled organic, animals may have been raised on feed with GMOs
- Avoid canola or “vegetable oil” unless marked “GMO-free”
- Sign up with MADGE – Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering – for news, information and meet-ups where you can get together and petition the supermarkets to label GMOs
If you’d like to know more about why you should avoid GMO foods in Australia, read my article for Wellbeing magazine here.