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What are GMOs? and How to avoid them

Food science and technology have come a long way over the years, though you can be forgiven for wishing food didn’t need labels or health claims at all and instead was exactly as nature intended – full of natural nourishment and nothing else.

Until that day comes here is what you need to know about GMOs and four ways to avoid them.

What are GMOs?

GMO stands for ‘Genetically Modified Organism’ and refers to genetic material that has been artificially transformed through genetic engineering to change its characteristics.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Food Standards describes it as:

“Genetic modification identifies particular characteristics and transfers them between living organisms. For example, a copy of a particular gene from the cells of a plant, animal or microbe is made, and inserted into the cells of another organism to give a desired characteristic.”

Genes can also be altered within a plant, animal or micro-organism so that susceptibility to a particular disease can be ‘switched off’ or modified, according to the Department of Agriculture Victoria.

Is genetic modification in Australia?

Genetically modified foods are available in Australia and regulated under The Food Standards Code  Standard 1.5.2 – Food produced using Gene Technology, This standard ensures that only assessed and approved GM foods enter the food supply.

In Australia, the following are approved genetically modified foods according to the code:

Soybean, Potato, Wheat, Rice, Canola, Sugar beet, Lucerne (a perennial legume which is used mainly for the production of hay, silage and pasture), Safflower, Corn and Cotton.

More info on approved GM foods within Australia are listed in Schedule 26 of the Food Standards Code. ?

How to avoid GM Foods?

Unfortunately, there are loose labelling laws surrounding GM foods and ingredients in Australia, so if you want to avoid GM ingredients you will need to be vigilant.

Many GM ingredients are not required to be identified on food labels. This includes products containing highly refined ingredients derived from GM crops (for example GM oils and sugar, which may be found in breads and cereals). Products such as meat, milk and eggs derived from animals, which were fed on GM feed, are not required to be labelled ‘genetically modified’.

Labelling is likewise not required on food intended for immediate consumption, such as restaurant meals.

4 ways to avoid GMOs

One of the easiest ways to avoid GMOs is to look for a certified organic logo. Organic farmers believe it is important to allow Mother Nature to provide us food as nature intended and the Certified Organic Standard ensures this. 


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