WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- If the old mantra "money makes the world go ‘round’ is true, then a contemporary corollary might be" ... and chemicals do likewise for our food supply."

The most recent -- and likely to be ongoing -- controversial issue for consumer-health advocacy groups involves genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

And what exactly are GMOs?

According to the Non-GMO Project, GMOs are "plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals."

In other words, produce, dairy and meat products that have been altered via a "who-knows-what" concoction of laboratory-created materials.

According to South Florida health coach and organic chef Alina Zhukovskaya, corn, canola oil and soy are the products most often containing GMOs. They’re essentially in everything -- including, says Dean Pagni, owner of Fit Food Express, "more than 80 percent of processed foods."

The history of GMOs

Modern-day GMOs were first introduced into the world’s food, farming and crop supplies as an outgrowth of the laboratory-based genetic manipulations being done in the 1970s and 1980s by pesticide manufacturers such as Monsanto.

In the 1990s, genetically engineered crops such as tomatoes, tobacco and corn began filling the store shelves in both Europe and the United States.

However, growing concerns and public pressure about the safety of GMOs led much of the world to reconsider their usage.

Numerous studies have linked GMOs to higher incidences of cancer in laboratory animals.

Another local licensed health coach, Pamela Higgins, cites compromised immune systems, increases in allergies, infertility, endocrine system disruption, insulin resistance, and antibiotic resistance as other potential maladies associated with the scientifically created substances.

By the turn of the millennium, most of the world’s developed nations -- including Australia, Japan and the entire European Union -- had largely concluded that GMOs are, at best, questionable -- and at worst, unsafe. Thus, they’ve been banned in certain locales, had their sale severely restricted in others -- and they’re always clearly labeled.

Yet here in the U.S., GMOs are not only legal and widely utilized, but there’s no law requiring food products that contain them be labeled as such.

And you might be surprised what sorts of products contain potentially harmful GMOs. A seemingly innocuous product such as dried fruit often is packed with oil to retain some moisture. This oil, in turn, becomes a GMO risk, of which the consumer is totally unaware.

Well, in one state at least, that just changed. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin recently signed a bill making Vermont the first U.S. state to enact a law requiring the mandatory labeling of foods made with GMOs.

Avoiding GMOs

So, without the benefit (yet) of mandatory GMO food labeling in our fair state, how can you avoid GMOs if you so desire?

"Buy organic and look for the ‘Non-GMO Project’ seals on packaging," suggests Pagni.

"If an item’s ingredients include high fructose corn syrup, stay away," adds Zhukovskaya.

Of course, there is one other extreme option for conscientious consumers.

Thankfully, Vermont is lovely this time of year.



Dean Pagni, owner of the organic-food restaurant Fit Food Express in Delray Beach, Fla., cites the following commonly consumed foods that contain GMOs:

Corn

Potatoes

Salmon

Soybeans

Rice

Squash

Tomatoes

Wheat

Vegetable oils

Soft drinks

Salad dressings

Eggs

Chicken

Meat, pork

Dairy products