Do we really have genetically modified foods in Australia?

Fast shopping
Shopping – Sunrise POS/Creative Commons

Many of us choose not to eat genetically modified (GM) foods and I had genuinely thought that we had little exposure to GM foods here in Australia. Compared to the USA, which grows large amounts of GM corn, soy and cotton, I always thought Australia was much more isolated from GM practices. Well, I have found out that’s definitely not the case.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) allows manufacturers to use imported GM food in processed food products, allows restaurants and cafes to use GM foods without requiring notification to the public, and allows cotton and canola GM crops to be grown in Australia. There are no approved GM fresh whole foods for sale.

Unfortunately GM foods are becoming more widespread. Without extensive testing of these foods we don’t know how they may impact our health. So what should we look for if we wish to avoid them?

GM foods are all around you

You may find that food you buy in cafes, fast food takeaways and restaurants these days are cooked in GM cottonseed oil, and that GM canola is present in many margarine spreads and used for cattle feed.

If an ingredient has been significantly refined, such as corn being refined into corn oil, none of the GM protein remains, allowing these GM products to be used in foods without notifying the consumer. The main ingredients in packaged food to look out for are soy and soy lecithin, often used in chocolate as well as margarine, mayonnaise and pastries. Potatoes, corn oil and corn syrups are often imported GM products used to make local Australian snack foods.

No need to freak out, but…

I am being very careful to avoid corn products unless they are certified organic and GM free as corn is the most widespread of all GM foods worldwide. Corn is a major replacement ingredient in gluten free foods, so this is important to know if like me you are gluten intolerant. GM foods have been linked to increased gut irritation and leaky gut so If you already have gut issues (Nodding head, yep that’s me). It’s good to know what you are eating and learn to read the labels so you can look after your gut.

I also use butter, ghee, olive oil and animal fats to cook with at home. This is an easy way to avoid some of the top GM crops like corn and canola. Additionally, vegetable oils have now been found to be unhealthy – yep it’s changed again! I’ll write a post soon with more details on why to avoid vegetable oils. Basically they are high in omega 6 content which creates inflammation in the body. We get far too much omega 6 in our diet and not enough omega 3. Grass fed butter and animal fat is a great source of omega 3 so it’s a good substitute for the vegetable oils and surprisingly much better for you.

For more information on currently approved GM crops read FSANZ current GM approvals and for labelling see GM food labelling.

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