Food Industry & Politics

Genetically Modified Foods: You Are Eating Them; Like It or Not

This is a follow-up article to my previous article and includes Young Living’s response.

Of all the problems with the current food supply in the United States, I believe genetically modified (GM) foods is still the most misunderstood.  In casual conversation if I ask 10 different people, “What do you know about GM food?”  Or, “Do you eat GM foods?”  I am sure to get 10 different answers.  Many of these answers are blatantly honest like, “I don’t really know what genetically modified foods are, but I’ve heard of them.”  Other answers make it obvious that people simply don’t know anything about them like, “I know they’re bad so I don’t eat them.”  The truth is; if you live in the United State, you are eating them like it or not and have been for years.

Genetically modified foods are everywhere.  What is worse is that many companies making products that are not even food also use genetically modified crops in the ingredients.  By far, genetically modified corn is the most commonly used ingredient and shows up in just about everything that is not specifically showcasing the “Non-GMO” verified seal.

What Are Genetically Modified Foods?

Genetically modified foods, are any foods that contain ingredients made from genetically modified crops; or, that come from animals who were fed genetically modified grains.

Again, the most abundant genetically modified crop in the food supply is genetically modified corn with GM soy coming in at a close second.  Approximately 90% of all corn, soy, and canola grown in the United States comes from genetically modified seeds.  The majority of GM corn is used to feed animals being raised for food.  A large portion of the remaining GM corn is used to produce a number of food ingredients including high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, emulsifiers, and a variety of additives and preservatives.  These GM ingredients are used in processed foods and other consumer products such as cleaners, perfumes, and skincare products.  The FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list contains literally thousands of ingredients that can be made from GM corn.

How Exactly Do They Alter the GM Seeds?

Basically, the biotechnology behind GM crops allows scientists to replace a piece of genetic information in the plant’s DNA with another genetic code that will allow the plant to display a desired characteristic.  For example, Monsanto’s genetically modified corn was engineered to act as a pesticide.  That’s right.  The actual corn grown from these seeds produce plants that resist pests, specifically it will be resistant to the most common worms that tend to destroy corn crops.

While this sounds extremely beneficial to the farmer, it is not without some serious issues.  First of all, no one is really sure about what consuming genetic material coded to display pesticide characteristics is actually doing inside our body over the long run.  Second, and probably even worse because it is well known, these crops are designed to thrive on chemical fertilizers and also can be drenched in gallons upon gallons of herbicides.  While the crop is pesticide resistant, it is not weed resistant, and it still needs lots of fertilizer to thrive in the “dead” soil created by growing these crops.

To ensure the highest yields, farmers often use excessive amounts of these chemicals.  As a result, many serious environmental issues have developed including increased dead zones in various waters, the extinction of hundreds of insect species, and disruption in the reproduction of honey bee colonies.  Not to mention, the soil these crops are grown in is rendered completely worthless for any other purpose.

And guess who sells the seeds and all those chemicals to the farmers?  You guessed it.  Monsanto.  Thus, there have been a number of protests worldwide speaking out against Monsanto’s practices.

Why You Never Knew You Were Eating GMOs

Because the current system for approving any ingredients or crops distributed in the food supply only requires testing by the companies who make these ingredients or grow these crops, it is nearly impossible for the FDA to disapprove use of any food substances.  Companies simply conduct their own tests according to very lenient FDA requirements, or they have their own group of scientists confirm that there is no evidence to suggest the ingredients would be unsafe for human consumption.  It’s like you and me developing a food and providing documentation to the FDA that says our own scientists says it’s safe for human consumption, therefore, it is!  There is no third party testing required.  When GMO crops were developed, the food industry deemed them to be safe and the FDA approved of their use.

There was no public announcement of such substances being used in our food.  It wasn’t on the news, in the newspapers, or brought to the general public’s attention in any way, shape, or form that could make any significant number of us aware of what was going on in food development.

Farmers were then virtually forced to grow GMO crops or go out of business.  Growing GMO crops creates much higher yields, and the current system of growing commodity crops such as corn, soy, and wheat depends on high yields in order for the farmer to survive.  This is because our tax dollars pay these farmers through government subsidies since food companies buy these crops at prices less than what it costs the farmer to grow them.

Again, the best example I can give to show this system is not sufficient to keep harmful ingredients out of the food supply is the whole trans fat fiasco.  For decades we were eating this extremely unhealthy fat that is known to cause heart disease because limited testing on animals showed it to be safe.  Why is it that we approve of ingredients tested on animals for a few months when the entire scientific world knows that what happens inside an animal for 3 months after eating a food cannot be compared to what happens inside humans eating the same food for perhaps a lifetime?

The answer is simple.  Corporate lobbying and kickbacks for political campaigns as well as the fact that many former food industry executives sit on the board of the FDA and USDA ensures these loose approval practices stay in place.  Even with dozens of scientific studies showing the detrimental effects of trans fat, it still took the FDA years to ban its use in our food supply.  And when they did, they gave the food industry several years to phase it out so that current supplies of trans fat could still be used in food production.  In other words, even with conclusive evidence that trans fat causes heart disease, the industry was still allowed to use the remaining inventory in our food!

Is There Conclusive Evidence Showing GMOs Are Harmful to Humans?

I think this question is answered best in an article from The Plant Journal, which stated the following:

“The Expert Consultation noted that, in general, very little is known about the potential long-term effects of any foods, and that identification of such effects may be very difficult, if not impossible, due to the many confounding factors and the great genetic variability in food-related effects among the population. Thus the identification of long-term effects specifically attributable to genetically modified foods is highly unlikely.”1

So what exactly does that mean?  If you took the last sentence of that statement out of context you may be led to believe it is unlikely that genetically modified foods are harmful.  However, that is not what this means.  What it means is that it is nearly impossible to design any scientific study using proper control groups to show that a certain long-term health effect, good or bad, from GMOs is happening in any humans.  There are simply too many other variables that would have to be taken into consideration.  The bottom line is that even if GMOs are detrimental to our health, we really have a slim to no chance of ever being able to provide conclusive evidence to show this.  Not because it isn’t true, but because scientific studies, by nature, have limitations.

Are GM Ingredients In Natural Products

Yes.  Genetically modified ingredients can be placed in natural products as well as foods marketed as “All Natural.”  Currently the labeling laws in the United States do not put heavy restrictions on the use of the word “natural.” Using this word on products does not require that the ingredients be from non-GMO sources.  The only way to be sure products have been made from non-GMO ingredients is to buy products with the Non-GMO Project seal on the label.

Answer From Young Living®

Recently I realized that although GM crops can be used to produce ingredients for products other than food, such as cleaners and skin care products, very little products outside of food products are opting to use the Non-GMO seal.  Therefore, I decided to email Young Living®, a well-known MLM company who I am currently affiliated with regarding the ingredients in some of their products.  They are one of the top sellers of essential oils, and I do currently use their essential oils for diffusing purposes only.  I truly believe in the quality of their essential oils and would recommend them to anyone who asked me from whom they should buy their essential oils from.

However, like so many companies, YL expanded their product line to increase profits and compete in other areas of health and fitness.  These additional products include nutritional supplements, cleaners, skincare products, etc.  The strict standards they hold for essential oil production, known as Seed to Seal®, do not apply to any of their other product lines.  Therefore, I wanted to know if they used any GMO ingredients in their other product lines.  Here is the answer they provided:

Young Living goes to great lengths to formulate and use non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) sources for its products whenever they are both verifiable and available. Although in the majority of cases we are able to certify that Young Living product ingredients are non-GMO, there are instances when sourcing and manufacturing constraints require the use of botanicals and materials that are uncertified or untraceable back to a verifiable non-GMO source. In addition, there are no clear guidelines on unified labeling standards from U.S. government agencies regarding non-GMO labeling.


We reaffirm our commitment to offering safe, effective, and high-quality products to our customers and members around the world. We are continuously researching ways to provide the highest quality and most natural products for our members

We are happy to supply SDS/MSDS information upon request, though Safety Data Sheets are intended to provide comprehensive information about a substance or mixture for use in workplace chemical management and may not fully suit your needs.”

Okay, so they didn’t send me the Safety Data Sheets I asked for even though I can have them upon a second request.  I already know it’s not necessary because as they state, the SDS will unlikely suit my need.  It will not list what ingredients are, or are not, from GMO sources.

This answer is typical of all companies using GMO ingredients in their products who do not want to come right out and say it.  It is a way to confuse the consumer even more in my opinion.  They will always mention the lack of labeling standards by the U.S. government.  They will also always mention that the ingredients either cannot be verified as non-GMO or cannot be traced back to non-GMO sources, but they do this in a way that makes it seem as if this is impossible.  It’s not.  In fact, this basically tells you that some ingredients are from GMO sources.  Why?  Because non-GMO sources are not only verifiable, but they are always traceable back to the source.  It is an absolute requirement of the Non-GMO Project.2

However, I certainly will not stop purchasing essential oils from YL.  This is an issue of catastrophic proportions facing many major corporations.  The cost of using non-GMO ingredients is often the reason why “sourcing and manufacturing constraints” require the use of GMO ingredients.  This is not an issue plaguing only YL, it is an issue in many of the companies whose brand we hold in the highest regard.  Just look at the answer Boar’s Head meats posts on their Q&A section to the question:  Do your products contain GMOs?


“At present, only Boar’s Head Brand Hummus – excluding the Boar’s Head Hummus Pretzel Snacks – use only non-GMO ingredients and are Non-GMO Project Verified.  Boar’s Head is committed to providing exceptional quality foods. Given the lack of regulatory documentation to support ingredient claims to the use of GMOs, we are unable to accurately assess or address the use of GMOs in our other products.

The only way to guarantee a product is non-GMO is to buy USDA certified organic products or non-GMO verified products like our Boar’s Head Hummus.”

Again, notice the deceptive language trying to point the finger at the lack of government regulation and the fact that for some reason they are unable to assess the use of GMO’s in their products.  Hardly true when they know darn well all of the animals raised to produce their meats are eating GMO grains.  Which, by the way, makes their deli meats non-ketogenic compliant.  So if you’re implementing the ketogenic diet, this will not be a proper source of quality proteins or fats that are essential in a healthy keto diet.  Yes, your exercise will keep you looking fine, but your insides will be screaming for proper nutrition.

In the end, if you ask a company, “Do you use GM ingredients in your products?”, the answer should really begin with a simple yes or no.  If they would like to give an explanation afterward that’s fine.  It’s the intentional misleading of consumers that I have a problem with.  There is enough confusion out there when it comes to making healthy choices.  We don’t need fancy wording designed to disguise the truth.  And if GMOs are so harmless like others want us to believe, why are companies so reluctant to let us know they are using them in their ingredients?


1. Kuiper HA, Kleter GA, Noteborn HPJM, and Kok EJ. Assessment of the food safety issues related to genetically modified foods. The Plant Journal. 2001; 27(6):  503-528.

2. Non-GMO Project. Non-GMO Project Standard. Updated September 22, 2017.  Accessed October 9, 2018.

Click her for the complete Non-GMO Project Standard PDF file.

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About Laura Cadoret, MS

Helping people see the big picture in food industry and nutrition
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