2012-10-22

Co.Exist

An App To Tell You If There Are Genetically Modified Ingredients In Your Food

There are no laws that say companies have to tell you if they’re using genetically modified ingredients. If that doesn’t sit right with you, there’s now an app to help you sort out which foods’ genes have been altered.

Genetically modified food is either the best thing that ever happened to nutrition-starved people living in poverty or a big health concern for GMO-gobbling consumers. It all depends on who you talk to. If you’re one of the people worried about GMOs, there aren’t many ways to avoid them—brands don’t have to reveal whether their products contain GMO ingredients. That may not be the case for long in California, where an upcoming proposition that’s likely to pass requires most foods with GMO ingredients to announce themselves as such on their packaging. It’s the kind of sweeping legislation that could trigger changes in GMO labeling practices across the country.

Until that happens, healthy food shopping app Fooducate is providing an alternative solution. In addition to providing information on nutrition and ingredients (and grading foods based on how healthy and unprocessed they are), the app is now providing GMO information for over 200,000 products.

This is a tricky endeavor because, as we mentioned, companies don’t actually have to reveal the GMO status of their products. In some cases, it’s obvious—brands attempting to appeal to certain consumers will often reveal on their packaging that products are GMO-free. But the foods that contain GMO ingredients rarely say so. In most instances, Fooducate is just guessing.

If a product has a GMO-free label, that product appears on Fooducate as a GMO-free food. But if a food contains ingredients that are likely to include GMOs—like soy and corn—they will get the label "GMO—High Probability." Foods that have ingredients with a moderate possibility of being GMO receive the "GMO—Medium Probability" label.

I tried the optional feature out myself. Annie’s Homegrown Whole Wheat Shells and Extra Cheesy Cheddar Sauce? That’s GMO-free, as reported by the manufacturer (Annie’s is opposed to GMOs). Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner, Whole Grain, Original Flavor? That’s a "GMO—High Probability" food.

Ultimately, the app is just an aid for common sense—highly-processed foods from brands that don’t explicitly say they are anti-GMO probably contain GMOs. If you don’t want to spend time buried in an app while you’re grocery shopping, instead just look for organic products (they don’t contain GMOs by nature) and avoid others that contain risky ingredients like corn and soy.

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5 Comments

  • kaapstorm

    Well, @Bob the consumer, you've hit the nail on the head! The problem isn't genetic changes to domesticated plants. Obviously that's been happening for millennia. The problem is corporations like Monsanto (and probably Monsanto more so than any other corporation) who hook farmers into repeat subscriptions of intentionally-crippled seed, and maneuver the world into a dangerous reliance on monoculture. But GM doesn't have to be this way! Some scientists have developed useful plants without crippling them, nor forcing farmers to sign dangerous contracts. e.g. The University of Cape Town, South Africa, has developed drought-resistant maize (corn), superior to Monsanto's equivalent, using genes from a drought-resistant plant found in harsh South African environments. The project is driven by humanitarian goals, not profit. This really is genuinely good news for farmers in developing countries like South Africa, not to mention populations relying on stable food production in an age of less-than-reliable climate.