Is there a hotter topic in the natural industry right now than GMOs (genetically modified organisms)? No, this is not Neal’s dissection of the GMO debate – not yet at least. Instead, we are going to talk about the labeling of GMO products – specifically the hypocrisy surrounding “GMO Activist” grocers and health food stores.
To say there’s a lot of confusion about GMOs is an understatement. Many people for one reason or another are trying to avoid them. Hey man, we’re all for supporting you in whatever health decisions you make… as long as you’re deciding for yourself, based on sound evidence, and ignoring the hype.
One thing we feel strongly about is transparency. Whether or not you care about GMOs, you should know easily whether a product contains GMOs. Many businesses (for noble causes or to cash in on the newest movement) have been catering to people who want knowledge about GMO content in their products. They do so by placing seals or logos bragging “Non-GMO”. But, as you may have guessed, these may not be 100% factual.
The thing people need to know is that many of these products labeled “Non-GMO” contain ingredients that are made using GMOs. Gasp.
So, picture this. I’m in a grocery store. The national chain proudly declares “Non-GMO” all over the place. People in line behind him are talking about how they felt GMOs are bad, ruining society, yadda yadda, and they feel so strongly that they would never buy GMOs. Ever.
Now picture me scanning their basket and seeing a majority of the products are actually made using GMOs. Can you feel my stress level rise?
I returned to the store thinking that was the end of our GMO week, but we were then thrust back into the debate when a sales rep comes in promoting their product, proudly drawing attention to the “Non-GMO” seal. ANOTHER sales rep that doesn’t understand their own product.
There were several ingredients in the product made using GMOs, but we’ll focus on one, B-12. B-12 goes by many names: cobalamin (found in food), methylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin, and hydroxycobalamin. B-12 is synthesized either by using genetically modified yeasts and bacteria or using inputs such as glucose (made from GMO sugar) that is fed to the yeasts and bacteria. Nearly every product containing added B-12 is created using GMOs
No, we won’t be carrying your mislabeled product Mr. Sales Rep. How about another example from a popular soy drink with the shiny Non-GMO label?
INGREDIENTS: Soymilk (Filtered Water, Whole Soybeans), Cane Sugar, Sea Salt, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor.
VITAMINS & MINERALS: Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12.
As you can see, B-12 is added, so… it certainly isn’t “Non-GMO.” It’s just another example of hypocrisy, misinformation, and a misdirection campaign to sell subpar products at a premium. (We wrote an article for a magazine about misdirection and posted it on our blog)
The patient asks, “But I do choose to avoid GMOs. How, then, do I know if it is GMO or not?” Great question, we’re so glad you asked…
First, buy real foods; shop outside of the supermarket. Almost all processed foods contain GMOs. When they fortify products with vitamins, they’re adding synthetic chemical isolates that are normally made from GMOs. When you eat the real stuff, you’re getting vitamins and nutrition from the food. You shouldn’t need to add any extra.
Buying real food is the only way to avoid GMOs. But, again, be educated on the whole picture. Know the difference between GMOs and traditional hybridization/gene modification techniques. Know that GMOs have dramatically helped in medicine – just ask an insulin-dependent diabetic. It’s a BIG debate; educate yourself well!
On the supplement side of things, it’s a bit tougher. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that almost all supplements contain ingredients made from GMOs, especially the ones with the “seal of approval”.
Nutriplex Formulas is one of the companies that truly make Non-GMO vitamins. Wonder why we recommend these guys? They know their nutrition. They know their stuff.
In conclusion, whatever side of the debate you stand on, we can help you make educated, honest decisions. Just know, that unlike our “competitors”, we would NEVER have a “Non-GMO Month” as it would be entirely uninformed and hypocritical.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth