Beyond the Genes: Embracing a GMO-Free Lifestyle for Wholesome Nouris…

Posted 25 Jun 2023
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GMO stands for ‘genetically modified organism’. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines genetically modified foods as ‘foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally.’ Therefore, foods labelled as non-GMO mean the ingredients in the food product in question, including the food additives and processing aids are not genetically modified.

Genetic modification of food on a ‘natural’ scale can be traced back to when we first began harvesting plants. For example, a crop-grower would likely select the crops with the most desirable traits to be mated, optimising what is being grown. Humans have selectively bred plants (and animals) for thousands of years. With today’s technology, genetic modification allows for much more flexibility in terms of creating foods which would not occur naturally over time. 


Should we be mindful of genetically modified foods?

The main issue in general with genetically modified foods is concern and perception from many consumers that the process is not natural and could result in a number of unspecified side effects.

Traditionally modified foods were not an issue; processes were slow, and only allowed for modification within the same species of plant (or animal). However, increases in knowledge, technological and scientific capabilities have resulted in unprecedented modern capabilities - allowing for ‘transgenic’ modification, or cross modification between species. 

This means that we can take the DNA from a spider, and intertwine it with the DNA of a cow; or DNA from an elephant for optimisation of an orange. Genetically modified food is deemed to be more a question of ethics and morality than bodily harm. A food that has undergone genetic modification is no more likely to cause adverse symptoms, illness or disease to humans than a non-GMO food. Further, GM foods have undergone thorough testing. There is also an argument that  allowing genetic modifications results in crops having a lesser reliance on pesticides and also a potential reduction in food prices due to higher yields of more resistant crops.

 A few examples of genetic modification include: tomatoes with the antifreeze proteins from fish, corn which contains a bacterium poisonous to insects, and potatoes with fungus protectant DNA from bees and moths.

Which foods are typically genetically modified?

Common foods which have undergone genetic modification are crops such as fruits, vegetables and grains. The most likely foods to have undergone modification include:

·  Soybean

·  Corn

·  Apples

·  Eggplant

·  Potato

·  Salmon

·  Canola

·  Sugarbeet

·  Squash

·  Papaya

·  Rice

Future genetic modification will likely focus on optimising the nutrient content of foods, reducing the allergenic potential of foods associated with allergy or intolerance, and/or further enhancement of food production systems.


How can I tell if a food has been genetically modified?

Determining whether a specific food item has been genetically modified (GM) can be challenging without additional information or specialized testing. However, here are a few general approaches you can consider:

1. Labeling: Check the packaging or labeling on the food product. In some countries, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be required to be labeled. Look for statements like "Contains GMOs" or specific labels indicating genetically modified ingredients. However, there is still the possibility that foods may contain GM ingredients as anything up to 1% is exempt from this labelling due to ‘unintentional presence.’

2. Non-GMO certifications: Look for certifications such as the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, which indicates that a food product has undergone testing and has been verified to be free from genetically modified ingredients.

3. Organic certification: Foods labeled as "organic" are generally not genetically modified. Organic certification prohibits the use of GMOs, so choosing organic products can be an indicator that the food is non-GMO. However, keep in mind that organic certification is primarily focused on farming practices and may not guarantee complete absence of GMOs due to the possibility of cross-contamination.

4. Check ingredient lists: Look for specific ingredients that are commonly genetically modified, such as soy, corn, canola, sugar beets, and some varieties of zucchini and yellow squash. If these ingredients are listed, it increases the likelihood that the food product contains genetically modified versions of these crops.

5. Research specific brands: Some food manufacturers voluntarily provide information about their GMO policies. You can visit the company's website or contact them directly to inquire about their use of genetically modified ingredients.

6. Genetic testing: If you require definitive proof, laboratory-based genetic testing can be conducted on the food product. However, this method is generally not practical or accessible for regular consumers and is more commonly used by regulatory bodies and research institutions.

It's important to note that while genetically modified ingredients are widespread in many processed foods, they are generally considered safe for consumption by major scientific organizations. If you have specific concerns about genetically modified foods or prefer to avoid them for personal reasons, the methods outlined above can help you make more informed choices.

We have tagged non-GMO products from supermarkets across the globe. Simply explore the ‘non-GMO’ tag at  


References & Resources

New Zealand Ministry for the Environment | Genetically modified medicines and food

Australian Govt Department of Health | Genetically modified (GM) crops in Australia

World Health Organisation | Food, Genetically Modified

Harvard Kennedy School [Ash Center] | Genetically Modified Foods

FDA | GMO Crops, Animal Foods, and Beyond