New EWG Guide Aims to Help Shoppers Avoid GE Food

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For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Washington, D.C. – A new shopping guide released by the Environmental Working Group today will help consumers find supermarket foods made without ingredients likely to be genetically engineered.

EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food also aims to help shoppers decide which foods are most important to buy certified organic or GE-free.

“Avoiding GE foods isn’t easy because consumers are denied the right to know if foods in the grocery aisles have been genetically engineered or contain GE ingredients,” said Renee Sharp, EWG’s director of research. “It is our hope that EWG’s new guide will provide shoppers with the information they need to make more informed decisions when shopping for themselves or their families.”

More than 75 percent of food in supermarkets is genetically engineered or contains GE ingredients, according to some estimates.

EWG’s guide highlights the four most common GE foods and ingredients -- soybeans, sugar, vegetable oils, and varieties of field corn.

Some 93 percent of soybeans and 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. have been genetically engineered. Sugar beets account for 55 percent of U.S.-grown sugar, and 95 percent of the crop is genetically engineered. Soybean oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil made in the U.S. come from crops that are almost entirely genetically engineered. These oils are among the largest sources of generic “vegetable oil.”

If consumers want to avoid these GE foods and ingredients, EWG recommends shopping for certified organic versions of these foods or buying foods that have been verified as GE-free by the Non-GMO Project.

"More and more consumers are looking for ways to avoid GE ingredients,” said Nneka Leiba, EWG’s deputy director of research. “That’s why we created this easy-to-use shopping guide. Shoppers can rely on EWG’s guide to be confident they’re buying food that hasn’t been genetically engineered or doesn’t contain GE ingredients.”

The guide also includes a watch list of foods that may be genetically engineered -- papaya, zucchini and yellow summer squash, and sweet corn.  It also lists many other GE foods that could be coming soon to grocery aisles, including salmon, plums, potatoes, rice, and tomatoes.

Scientists have not determined whether GE foods pose health risks. Still, EWG scientists and researchers believe consumers have many good reasons to avoid eating GE ingredients.  Among them:

  • Few long-term studies have been done to determine if GE foods are safe. The federal government does not require GE foods to be tested for carcinogenicity, for harm to fetuses or for long-term risks to humans or animals.
  • Genetically modified crops have spurred the rise of “superweeds” -- pest plants that have mutated to resist herbicides.  Attempting to eradicate these hardy plants, some farmers are using use more pesticides and, in some cases older and more toxic pesticides, like dicamba and 2,4-D. Both pesticides are known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects and pose increased risks of cancer.
  • Unintended GE contamination has become a major issue for organic farmers who struggle to prevent cross-contamination of their crops by GE seed or pollen spread by wind, insects, flood and machinery.

Click here to get the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food.

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