Going out for a genetically modified organism (GMO)-free meal may seem almost impossible, but there are steps we can take to keep our restaurant plates as pure as possible. Here’s what the experts suggest:
- Avoid high-risk ingredients like soy and corn. The vast majority of the soybeans and corn grown today are genetically modified. This puts food items like tofu, miso, tempeh, and soy sauce as well as corn tortillas, tamales, grits, polenta, and corn meal off limits.
- Find out what oil is used in the kitchen. Unless explicitly labeled, most corn, soybean, cottonseed, and canola oils are probably genetically modified. The same goes for generic “vegetable oil.” Try choosing a cuisine known for using olive oil, like Greek or Italian, or ask that your food be prepared without oil.
- Skip the soda. Most are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (see, corn is truly everywhere!) and diet drinks are typically sweetened with aspartame, an artificial sweetener that can be derived from GMOs.
- Choose vegetarian foods. While (most) meat is not genetically engineered at this point in time, it was likely raised on GMO feed. Organic meat, however, can’t be fed GMOs. If you’re eating at a restaurant serving organic meat, you’re good to go.
- Choose wild-caught salmon. While the FDA has not yet okayed GMO salmon for sale, it recently concluded that such fish is safe to eat and would have “no significant impact” on the environment. It’s widely believed that final approval will come very soon. These GMO salmon will contain a foreign gene that allows them to grow twice as fast as natural salmon, and labeling will not be required.
- Dine at locally-owned independent restaurants. Chain restaurants generally obtain their food from long-distance supply chains and centralized distribution centers. Unlike local restaurants that typically get their food supplies much closer to home, this greatly increases the odds that GMOs will be involved. Local restaurants are also more likely to avoid pre-packaged mixes and instead cook their food from scratch, which helps, too. Always ask questions to know what you’re eating.
Learn more about GMOs at the Institute for Responsible Technology and download their Non-GMO Shopping Guide. For mobile apps, try the Center for Food Safety’s True Food Shoppers Guide to Avoiding GMOs.
Special thanks to Alicia Katz, who wrote the original November 2011 post from which this has been adapted.