On The Road to Being GMO-Free

Avoiding GMOs has been more challenging than I originally thought it would be.

First, I discovered that my favorite chocolate (Ghirardelli’s) uses soy lecithin from genetically modified soybeans. Finding a chocolate without soy lecithin these days is ridiculously hard. Even Rapunzel, the brand that uses rapadura (unrefined evaporated cane sugar) as a sweetener, sometimes uses soy lecithin. But at least theirs is certified organic, meaning that it’s GMO-free.

Then, I read this post by Rose highlighting 7 unexpected GMO products most of us (me included) still use.

What Rose shared opened my eyes even further to the pervasiveness of corn in our culture.

GMO corn is in our gasoline when we fill up at the pump. It’s in the “earth-friendly” vinegar we’re using to clean our homes. It’s hiding in wax and oil coatings used to make our supermarket produce look attractive.

This reminds me of this perspective-altering passage in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (a Food Renegade Must Read):

Corn is what feeds the steer that becomes the steak.  Corn feeds the chicken and the pig, the turkey and the lamb, the catfish and tilapia and, increasingly, even the salmon, a carnivore by nature that the fish farmers are re-engineering to tolerate corn.  The eggs are made of corn.  The milk and cheese and yogurt, which once came from dairy cows that are grazed on grass, now typically come from Holsteins that spend their working lives indoors tethered to machines, eating corn.

Head over to the processed foods and you find ever more intricate manifestations of corn.  A chicken nugget, for example, piles corn upon corn: what chicken it contains consists of corn, of course, but so do most of a nugget’s other constituents, including the modified corn starch that glues the thing together, the corn flour in the batter that coats it, and the corn oil in which it gets fried.  Much less obviously, the leavenings and lecithin, the mono-, di-, and triglycerides, the attractive golden coloring, and even the citric acid that keeps the nugget “fresh” can all be derived from corn.

To wash down your chicken nuggets with virtually any soft drink in the supermarket is to have some corn with your corn.  Since the 1980s virtually all the sodas and most of the fruit drinks sold in the supermarket have been sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup — after water, corn sweetener is their principal ingredient.  Grab a beer for your beverage instead and you’d still be drinking corn, in the form of alcohol fermented from glucose refined from corn.  Read the ingredients on the label of any processed food and, provided you know the chemical names it travels under, corn is what you will find.  For modified or unmodified starch, for glucose syrup and maltodextrin, for crystalline fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and high fructose corn syrup, for MSG and polyols, for the caramel color and xanthan gum, read: corn.  Corn is in the coffee whitener and Cheez Whiz, the frozen yogurt and TV dinner, the canned fruit and ketchup and candies, the soups and snacks and cake mixes, the frosting and gravy and frozen waffles, the syrups and hot sauces, the mayonnaise and mustard, the hot dogs and the bologna, the margarine and shortening, the salad dressings and the relishes and even the vitamins. (Yes, it’s in the Twinkie, too.)  There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American supermarket and more than a quarter of them now contain corn.  This goes for the nonfood items as well — everything from the toothpaste and cosmetics to the disposable diapers, trash bags, cleansers, charcoal briquettes, matches, and batteries, right down to the shine on the cover of the magazine that catches your eye by the checkout: corn.  Even in Produce on a day when there’s ostensibly no corn for sale you’ll nevertheless find plenty of corn: in the vegetable wax that gives the cucumbers their sheen, in the pesticide responsible for the produce’s perfection, even in the coating on the cardboard it was shipped in.  Indeed, the supermarket itself — the wallboard and joining compound, the linoleum and fiberglass and adhesives out of which the building itself has been built — is in no small measure a manifestation of corn.

And there you have it! While avoiding GMOs 100% of the time is next to impossible, we can all do our part. Even in small ways — even if it just means that we call up Ghiardelli and ask them if their soy lecithin is GMO-free.

This post is part of today’s No-GMO Challenge blog carnival. Go check it out to see what others are posting!

(photo by romanlily)


  1. says

    The chocolate that I use is Equal Exchange. It is organic, fairly-traded, and contains the following ingredients: organic cocoa liquor, organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa nibs, organic cocoa butter, organic unrefined whole cane sugar, and organic ground vanilla beans. Now, it does cost around $4 a bar at 3.5 ounces, but it is so worth it. I eat just a few squares a day and it satisfies my chocolate urge nicely. I know there are superior chocolates that are raw and cooked at very low temperatures – in fact I am getting the name of one soon that my colon hydro-therapist is going to start selling soon and I’ll post it on this site soon. But you’re right, it’s tough to obtain most anything anymore without it being genetically-modified. Some people ask me why I care so much about genetically-modified foods. I say, “how can you not care when the safety of their consumption is so precarious?” And they just look at me like a deer in the headlights.

    Raine Saunders

  2. says

    due to all the food allegies in our fam , I use enjoy Life chocolate chips- they are soy free- and good- ANd their company has a No GMO policy.

    vehement flame

  3. Alison says

    I have also unintentionally cheated on the No-GMO diet. The gum I purchase from the HFS has soy lecithin in. I have switched to a brand that says No-GMO. Then on Saturday I purchased some beef jerky from the farmers market from the same person I buy my grass-fed beef from and there was Worcestershire sauce in it which has HFCS!

  4. says

    I never even thought about chocolate having soy in the ingredients. I was looking for a bar w/out the soy a few weeks ago. Lindt’s 70% and up dark chocolate has no soy, but any of the milk chocolates do. Even the Paul Newman’s has soy.


  5. says

    We also love the Enjoy Life chocolate chips! I was so happy to find them, because my chocolate cravings seemed to kick in right as we started the No GMO challenge!

    Mary Ellen

  6. says

    Local Nourishment — Yeah, I’ve discovered that when I find someone who things similarly to me about food & nutrition, I generally have A LOT more other stuff in common with them, too.

    Raine — For me, I share mostly all about two things 1) giant agribusinesses trying to buy up the native seed populations of the world and controlling our food supply (to me this is a great, GREAT evil), and 2) this is a huge public health experiment that’s being completely undocumented (thanks to lack of labeling laws, etc.) People are more willing to agree that GMOs should be labeled than that they should be banned.

    Vehement Flame & Mary Ellen — Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check them out.

    Julie — I agree!

    Motherhen68 — What’s really shocking is that soy is not even a natural, traditional chocolate additive. It’s crept into the chocolate industry much the same way that HFCS has crept into everything else: It’s cheap. And now, it’s really the only affordable option. If it were made well, it would cost significantly more to produce. And everyone would eat A LOT less chocolate because it would be so cost prohibitive.

  7. says

    Check out ART BARS – no soy lecithin at all and some of the best chocolate. Find them at http://www.ithacafinechocolates.com and I agree about Enjoy Foods chips as well as Equal Exchange. Theo chocolates are also soy free and come in a great variety of flavors for the gourmet chocolate.

    We have been GMO free for many years now. It does take time to learn all the things that are GMO but once you get it, and take out any packaged stuff, it’s easier to do. There are times when it’s near impossible though, I agree, especially in the U.S. Good luck and great post!

    Annie – Hip Organic Mama

  8. Laura says

    The chocolate I use, endangered species chocolate, uses non-gmo soy lecithin. I find it in the supermarket and they have many different varieties. I emailed the company to ask and they reassured me their bars were all-organic and no GMOs were used. It’s not exorbitantly expensive AND 10% of net profits are donated to “help support species, habitat, and humanity.” They are easy to find and always feature a picture of some cute animal on the front.
    Also found at http://ChocolateBar.com

  9. says

    I’ve been buying Theo chocolate ( http://theochocolate.com ). There’s no soy (lecithin or otherwise) and every ingredient in the two bars that I have currently is certified organic, and half of the ingredients are also fair trade. It’s also the only dark chocolate that I’ve had that isn’t bitter at all. In fact, and this is weird, but their milk chocolate is more tangy/bitter than their dark chocolate!

  10. Timothy Cate says

    KEEP OFF GMO’s!!! I was a welder exposed to chemicals which I think made me sensitive to GMO’s more than most. After $3000.00 of allergy testing I found out I was allergic to GMO’s on my own. When I completely eliminated GMO’s from my life my symptoms disappeared. I had reoccurring sinus infections(not Touched by anitbiotics).Also diagnosed with asthma which when I got off Fructose Corn Syrup Disappeared. Canola and Soy products gave me anaphilactic shock (tightening around the neck) within 15 minutes. Only Benedryl would fix this but these went away when I eliminated the GMO’s. Within 15 minutes of eating anything with GMO’s my neck lymph nodes would go crazy with pain and soreness. A fluid pouch would gather on my neck just above my shoulder. Only bed rest or reclining would remove the toxins. My feet would fill up with toxins and feel like I was walking on Balls of Fluffernutter. It has been a monumental task to get rid of all GMO’s . I am a living tester of GMO’s feed me and 15 minutes later I can tell if the food had GMO’s in it. They destroy organs and cause immune problems. I also believe that with the reaction of my lymph system that they also could cause cancer. What do they do to your systems even if you do not show symptoms?

  11. Linda says

    Great info… As far as Ghirardelli goes, what about their sugar and milk used in their products, they can also be GMO! Have you asked them about that?

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