The One Food Label I Avoid

 Image courtesy Genetic Literacy Project

Image courtesy Genetic Literacy Project

Every day is Election Day - at the grocery store.  Here's how to cut through the nonsense and vote with your food dollar.  By avoiding one easy-to-spot label, you'll save money, enhance your diet, and take a stand for science.

This post has been a long time coming, and it's personal as much as it's professional.  Here's what: I'm tired.  Exasperated.  Frustrated.  And simply can't sit quietly while a sham of a non profit contributes to food-shaming at its finest.  By finest, I mean absolute worst.  

So that one label I avoid?  Hint: its most recognizable feature is an orange butterfly.  And while I've personally managed to eliminate said label from my pantry and refrigerator, save for Dorval cocoa powder, once in a while a formerly label-less item catches my eye on the shelf, and I feel a sense of, e tu, Brute?  Like, really, Barilla?  

Though I shop the store brand for many items, pasta purveyor Barilla is one of the few names I actively seek out - or used to.  Branding works, and certain names find a way to tug at the strings of even the most pessimistic hearts.  Barilla is the brand my mother keeps on hand in massive quantity, and, well, they sponsor Danilo Gallinari (RIP that promising Knicks roster circa 2009).  So, when I reached for the familiar blue box and hastily had to drop it like a hot potato, it felt like the last straw.

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No matter your personal opinion on GMOs, despite the overwhelming evidence of their safety, this is not a GMO issue.  It's an ingredients issue.  Pasta is made of wheat.  Here's a list of GMOs currently utilized in the US food system:

So back to that pasta...

Genetically modified wheat isn't available in the United States.  All pasta is Non-GMO.  Same for anything else not mentioned on the list above.  So, when I see the butterfly on pasta, coffee, kiwi, or any of the other thousands of foods that DO NOT HAVE A GMO COUNTERPART, it resonates in a very particular way.  That way is a slap in the face.  

Why?  Because I know better.  And I want you to know better.  Foods verified by this now seemingly Godly seal are not any more nutritious or wholesome than their non-labeled counterparts.  And companies that choose to become verified by the Non-GMO project and label foods containing ingredients aside from potato, corn, canola, soy, papaya, sugar, or summer squash are preying on consumers' misplaced fear.  I CRINGE at the thought of someone, especially another mother like myself trying to feed her young family, feeling shamed into making food purchases based on pure nonsense.  

Here's the good news: AVOIDING the Non-GMO project label can actually SAVE you money, and, if you already include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein in your meals, can ENHANCE the quality of your diet overall.  I've yet to encounter a store brand that's caved to the butterfly.  With supermarket profit margins as low as they are, you can rest assured this won't happen any time soon.  Shop the store brand, enroll in your favorite supermarket's loyalty program (you'll have a better shot at scoring coupons for additional savings on the store brand), and watch your grocery bill shrink.  As for better nutrition through butterfly avoidance, the snack aisle is rife with butterflies.  So is the "health" food section of most supermarkets.  Both are filled with chips, bars, and other impulse buys.  This may be a sad exercise of initial farewells (bye-bye, Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips and Theo Dark Chocolate), but my wallet and waistline are over it.  

Before you silently label me a shill (because anyone standing up for GMOs in any way, shape, or form must be a shill, right?), listen to one last thing, really closely.  Shhhh...do you hear it? It's the sound of me smiling, knowing my opinions are my own and that this post is unsponsored.

Enjoy your food.  Enjoy your life.