Anyone who eats should learn about GMO foods, because supermarket shelves are brimming with them. Because GMOs are so new on the market — they first appeared about 20 years ago — we have no clue how dangerous that may be for our bodies or our planet. But we do know some key facts, a few of which are quite disturbing.

  • GMO companies control the research. One of the scariest facts about GMOs is that Monsanto and other seed-tinkerers have “explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research,” according to Scientific American. By law, Agritech companies have veto power, and thus block scientists from studying their products. You even have to sign an agreement when you buy the seeds.
  • GMOs affect other plants. The whole idea behind Roundup Ready crops is that they can survive being sprayed with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, while weeds cannot. But the resistant properties are now spreading to other plants, turning them into “superweeds” that can tolerate the toxic Roundup assault. There’s no turning back here — we’re forever altering the properties of the Earth’s vegetation, and who’s to say how this will affect the environment?
  • Most food today has GMOs. About 70 percent of the items on grocery store shelves have been genetically modified in some way, according to the Grocery Manufacturing Association. GMOs are most common in processed foods, and soy and corn are among the top GMO crops.
  • Food labels don’t include GMO information. You have no way of knowing if your spaghetti sauce, creamed corn or breakfast cereal has  genetically modified ingredients. GMO giants have smothered any legislation to require labeling, even convincing the public to vote against such laws with a barrage of expensive ads like this one:

  • GMOs don’t always improve crop yields. GMOs are hailed for their ability to yield greater harvests and resist weeds and insects. But they don’t always work. Flavr Savr tomatoes were discontinued due to poor yields, and Roundup-ready corn and canola have not proven more bountiful than non-GMO varieties, despite Monsanto’s claims. It can take decades to figure out if a GMO actually delivers (and again, independent researchers’ hands are tied).
  • Some of the anti-GMO hype is bogus. While skepticism about GMOs is justified, some of the “sky is falling” stories have gone too far. For instance, one French study (gobbled up instantly by the media) showed that rats died earlier than normal when fed Roundup Ready corn. Despite a wave of fear-mongering, the research turned out to be highly flawed. Lying about the dangers doesn’t do any good — it only helps strengthen the case of  GMO-pushers.

How to Avoid GMO Foods

The easiest way to avoid GMOs is to buy certified organic foods, which are not legally allowed to contain any genetically modified ingredients. And despite the lack of labeling laws, some brands have taken it upon themselves to let you know that their products are GMO-free; look for Non-GMO Project Seals, which are independently verified.

You knew sugar was bad for you, but if you’re avoiding GMOs you have one more reason to abstain: According to the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, any food made in North America with the word “sugar” in the ingredients list probably contains GMO sugar beets. Pure cane sugar, however, is probably safe.

While GMO supporters will tell you that these products are just fine, the truth is that we just don’t know how genetically modified crops may harm our health or the planet. The bottom line is that agritech companies are pushing GMOs to pad their pockets, and don’t have the public’s best interest in mind. Worse, those well-filled pockets also contain our lawmakers, who routinely grant favor toward big agriculture. But by arming ourselves with the truth, we can push for fair practices and look out for ourselves, even if the government will not.