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How to Avoid Monsanto and GMOs this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy the presence of family and reflect on another year of progress and health. It also allows us to eat more food in one sitting than is normally considered acceptable by unspoken societal rules. Of course, some people may think twice before eating just anything.

If GMO foods are on your list of foods to avoid -- whether you're wary of possible health risks, simply don't agree with agricultural methods created by Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) , Syngenta (NYSE: SYT  ) , and Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW  ) ; or would rather eat organic foods -- then you'll want to do your homework before making that last minute trip to the grocery store.

Is that even possible? Probably not. According to General Mills:

Because most U.S. farmers use GM seed to grow certain crops, if an American food or beverage product lists corn, soy, canola, cottonseed or beet sugar as an ingredient – and it is not organic – it likely contains GMOs. And 70 percent of foods on U.S. grocery store shelves likely do.

While I don't think biotech crops are anything to worry about, the fact remains that many consumers do. It will be difficult to completely avoid Monsanto during your Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you aren't the one buying the groceries. With that in mind, here's a list of the most likely GMO ingredients and the foods they're commonly found in that you can use as a rough guide while at the dinner table.

1. Soy
In 2012 about 94% of the soy produced in the United States was genetically modified, which ranked highest among all major crops. That makes it highly likely that any food product with soy ingredients that is not certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture can be classified as a GMO food. Foods such as tofu and margarine are obvious candidates, but foods cooked with soybean-based vegetable oil or baked with soy flour also make the list.

2. Cottonseed
Approximately 90% of the domestic cotton crop in 2011 was genetically modified. Sure, it can be processed into a fine t-shirt, but it is also commonly used as cottonseed oil. It is widely used in margarine, salad dressings, and to fry potato chips. Remember that when snacking while watching your favorite NFL team.

3. Corn
In 2012 nearly 88% of the corn produced in the United States was genetically modified, which may be a surprise to many consumers who might otherwise think all of the nation's crop is engineered. It does, however, have the largest presence of the major crops in the food supply. You know the routine: most foods containing high fructose corn syrup and corn-flour (corn starch) can likely be classified as GMO foods. This will be the most difficult ingredient to avoid this Thanksgiving.

4. Canola oil
In 2010 nearly 90% of the domestic canola crop, which is primarily processed into canola oil for cooking, was genetically modified. Avoid foods cooked or fried in canola oil that are not certified organic to have the best chance of avoiding engineered canola.

5. Milk
Believe it or not, some cows are given recombinant bovine growth hormone to increase milk production. Numerous studies have yet to find health risks posed by consuming growth factors present in milk produced by cows injected with the hormone, but it still may not jive with your view of how food should be produced. Thus, you'll want to avoid drinking milk that isn't an organic brand, such as Horizon.

Foolish bottom line
Simply put, biotech crops are so widespread in American agriculture that it will be nearly impossible to completely avoid consuming GMO ingredients and GMO foods this Thanksgiving without buying strictly organic products. If you're attending a relative's for Thanksgiving dinner and have little or no control over foods being purchased, then you'll want to use the list above before asking your Uncle Joe to pass the salad dressing or margarine. Regardless of your stance on the issues at hand, enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving from myself and everyone at The Motley Fool!

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Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (23)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 10:19 AM, eyeknonothing wrote:

    Common sense is required when discussing GMO's. They grow after being sprayed with an herbicide. Corn and cotton also produce their own insecticide. Cows who are shot up with rGBH are prone to mastitis, and infection of their mammary glands aka udders. This infection goes into the milk. Can any of this be good for us? I don't think so.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 11:30 AM, eyeknonothing wrote:
  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 11:41 AM, eyeknonothing wrote:

    we are the only country that allows using rGBH

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 11:42 AM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    The 2009 study from Dona and Arvanitoyannis that you linked to has been refuted by the scientific community. It is dangerous to post links to studies without a proper discussion of their content, conclusions, and post-publication review.


  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 5:48 PM, xetn wrote:

    Many foreign countries have banned GMO foods, So the easiest way to have a GMO free Thanksgiving is to move to one of those countries.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 6:06 PM, skeptic94 wrote:

    Organic foods are not sate either. There are cases where fields have been cross pollinated from neighboring fields by wind or insects.

    Farmers owning these fields that have been contaminated have been forced to pay Monsanto for the unwanted GMO seeds that were not purchased.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 6:14 PM, todamo13 wrote:

    Americans have been guinea pigs for the pesticide and chemical companies for decades. GMOs, RBGH, Roundup, Agent Orange, DDT... the list goes on and on.

    If these chemical companies are producing such healthy and nutritious food, then Americans must have the best health of any people on Earth. Right?

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 7:19 PM, wjcoffman wrote:

    "If these chemical companies are producing such healthy and nutritious food, then Americans must have the best health of any people on Earth. Right?"

    I'm not a fan of having my food engineered but to blame the "chemical companies" for my eating fast food, chips,diet sodas, sodas, and ice cream (etc, etc) and not exercising is beyond being a stretch of the truth.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 7:21 PM, cmalek wrote:

    Lord, what fools these mortals be!

    If you refused to ingest any food that may have GMOs or other harmful chemicals, you would starve in short order. And please do not bring up organics and the use of natural fertilizers. Natural fertilizers may not contain GMOs but they do contain all kinds of interesting microorganisms such as E. Coli, Botulism, Salmonella and others. Bon Apetit.

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 9:31 PM, ObserverOnHill wrote:

    Educate yourself on the science being used and read the studies that have not been well publicized outlining the potential problems with this technology.

    Watch the free online video "The Future of Food"

    read the book - "Seeds of Destruction" and

    "The World According to Monsanto"

    Google "Percy Schmeizer" and learn how Monsanto sued him after THEY polluted his farm fields.

    Ask yourself why so many government officials retire and become millionaire executives at this company ( just like many also end up at the FDA, approving killer drugs for big pharma ) .

    Learn why farmers in India are committing suicide by drinking RoundUp - Monsanto's magic elixir that promised to increase crop yields and has resulted in lower yields, leaving these farmer's bankrupt.

    Monsanto may be a good stock purchase but I personally feel it is one of the most evil companies on earth right along with Google

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 9:51 PM, getthetruth2 wrote:

    This is nuts. There are no health dangers from GMO products on the market. even Greenpeace agreed there are no health risks to humans with existing products. Non-Gm crops also use herbicides 95% of the time. You are just not a very smart informed person. BST is not injected into turkeys…other things might be but they are not GM so I guess those are safe?

    Uninformed people like the author is why this country and world is getting stupider by the minute.

    None of the information in the video's quoted above is correct I would need a book to refute them all but its difficult to convince crazy people.

    here are some to mention:

    The insect protection proteins made by Gm crops and COMPLETELY harmless to people - the first ones produced were actually the same as those used by organic farmers !

    The herbicides that GM are resistant to are safer than those that were used on 99% of the corn, soy, canola and cotton crops before they were invented !

    People may by dying of drinking RoundUp herbicide but since roundup is less toxic than table salt they could save money by just drinking seawater. …and BTW the Indian government has said there is correlation of suicides to GM crops …in fact GM crops have made indians more profitable --

    The sugar from corn is essentially the same as sugar from sugar cane or sugar beet -- it isn't even high fructose compared to sugar cane. This is another false story. High sugar in your food has never been good wherever the sugar comes from. This doesn't make corn bad. Most corn is fed to animals not people. Less than 1% of US corn is sweet corn or organic

  • Report this Comment On November 27, 2013, at 9:52 PM, getthetruth2 wrote:

    soy from GM soy is the same as soy from non-GM

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 1:59 AM, tempchennai wrote:
  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 8:17 AM, NYC3dArtist wrote:

    Didn't Horizon fight to keep GMOs off labels recently? This would be a bad example for an organic milk company if so. People have a right to know where their food comes from and make decisions that are best for them.

    Nothing with the Trader Joe's label is GMO.

    Also their canned fruits & vegetables do not have BPA any longer.

    I eat 99% fresh foods, and most of them organic. Avoiding GMO on a holiday is not even an issue for me, as I already avoid them everyday. I make my own food when I can, and buy very minimally processed when I can't.

    I didn't do it all in one day, but changed one thing about my eating habits a week, and in a year I changed or tried 52 things (everything from switching from white to wheat, from milk to coconut, or trying a new veggie or bean at Whole Foods)

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 12:00 PM, TMFBlacknGold wrote:


    "Uninformed people like the author is why this country and world is getting stupider by the minute."

    If you were familiar with my writing you would know that I enthusiastically and openly support biotech crops. This is simply one article in a series about GMO foods and GMO labeling.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 10:03 PM, willy325 wrote:

    This is pure unadulterated baloney. It is not news and it is not information and it is not necessary.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 9:17 AM, DevonShire123 wrote:

    The only way to avoid GMOs is to do what I did--move to another country. Now I eat whatever I want and I don't get fat. I don't get sick. I don't get cavities. It's life as life was meant to be.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 2:20 PM, cmalek wrote:


    "Now I eat whatever I want and I don't get fat. I don't get sick. I don't get cavities"

    Well, goody, goody for you. I too eat whatever I want, including GMO stuff and food stuffs from other "nasty" chemical companies, and I too do do not get fat, do not get sick and do not get cavities. Neither does my family. Which proves absolutely nothing in your or my case.

    I wonder what crap (figuratively and literally) are you ingesting that you do not know about? Unless you are growing 100% of your own food, there is absolutely no guarantee that the food you buy is untainted by any chemicals.

  • Report this Comment On November 30, 2013, at 8:06 AM, PeterVanKan wrote:

    'While I don't think biotech crops are anything to worry about,'

    Ignorance is bliss, I guess.

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