Why Corn Stresses Me Out.

I love corn. However I do not love that it is ‘genetically-modified’.

Genetically-modified in the case of corn, refers to the fact that it has been roasted cornaltered in a lab to be able withstand huge loads of pesticides. Without modifying the corn to withstand insect-killing toxic pesticides, the plants would die from the chemical load.

How does it become genetically-modified? Specifically, corn is spliced with a gene from soil bacteria, known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).  The toxin-containing seeds are then sold to farmers, ultimately affecting food we eat. You will never be able to see the pesticide OR wash it off….you are stuck with it. And the fact that this particular pesticide works by rupturing the gut of insects that eat it, makes it EXTRA unappetizing. It’s no wonder GMO food products including corn are now implicated in ill health.

GMO corn is reported to be making its way to some roadside stands, farmer’s markets and even grocery store shelves. The worst of it is that you may never know if your corn has been grown from GM seeds and peppered with more gut-wrenching pesticide than you can imagine. Neither Canada or the US have joined the dozen or so other nations with mandatory labelling GMO of foods. So this summer, our usual family tradition of buying roadside corn on the cob will also be modifed.

As corn is used in oodles of processed food ingredients,  it is best to know that you may be eating GMO corn even when you don’t think you are eating corn. And sadly, uber popular corn snack products… popcorn and corn chips are most often genetically-modified. That alone is an issue in my house (READ: corn chips are my kids favourite after school snack and movie night just isn’t movie night without popcorn).

As with many debates on whether these toxic chemicals will harm humans…be assured you will see both sides of the debate if you research the topic. I am in the camp with well-regarded experts who believe that by eating GMO foods, we are the test subjects for a huge science experiment.  Who has the time it takes for absolute conclusive evidence? By then my kids might be grown. So while both sides duke it out, I choose to avoid GMO foods.

Recently at a backyard BBQ, when the roasted corn on the cob was passed around… I passed. Who needs the stress?

Tips for avoiding genetically modified foods of any sort:

  • Buy organic. Organic foods cannot be genetically modified. Even organically-raised animals cannot be fed GMO grains.
  • If possible, grow your own.
  • Ask food companies whose foods you buy if their products contain GMO ingredients and hope you get the correct answer.
  • Search out retailers who are vowing not to stock GMO foods. Lists exist of such retailers. And conversely it has been reported that some retailers will be stocking GMO corn.
  • Look for the non-GMO Project symbol on foods.

The Low-Down on Commercial Baked Goods

Bread still life

It is no secret that I became a card-carrying label reader and avid googler of all things food while developing food products for a large Canadian company.

I have seen the inside of many factories producing food for mass distribution. I have had to study and research food ingredients to ensure regulatory approval and to ensure a sufficient shelf life. My colleagues and I used to joke that ‘our employer was the best university in the world for learning all about processed foods’. And now as a parent, navigating grocery labels in terms of health I believe my food industry experience was just that…no joke.

I am often asked why I avoid commercial baked goods like the plague. Because over and above the undesirable GMO wheat and oils, there are a host of unsavoury chemicals used to cheapen production and to extend shelf life.  Sadly, many of them are linked to ill health. Unlike when I worked for Big Food having to go with the status quo, I now exercise the option to avoid some ingredients.

Here’s the dirt on the ingredients I choose to avoid:

Azodicarbonamide: As time=money, processors use this to speed up the wheat production process. So we all get a dose of this dastardly chem. in most of our commercial baked goods.  Next time you eat fast food, don’t just sweat about the health of of what’s inside the bun, consider also the bun itself.  Europe got wise a while ago and banned it as BOTH a plastic blowing agent ( yes its used in plastics too) and a flour whitening agent as it is linked to respiratory issues.

Calcium Propionate:  Used to prevent mold growth in baked goods, this chem. has been linked to irritability, restlessness, inattention and sleep disturbance in children who consume it daily.  A 2002 study cited in the Journal of Paediatric Child Health confirmed the details. Who thought it was a good idea to have bread last two weeks and to potentially harm human health?

BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene): This is a preservative and a quite controversial one at that.  Widely used, it is considered a human respiratory irritant, as well as a human allergen and carcinogen. BHT and its cousin BHA are flagged for future assessment under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan. So why would I eat it until they figure it all out? Check commercial cereals and chewing gum as well.

So now I opt for smaller, organic producers when I do buy baked goods. If you make the switch, the first thing you may notice other than feeling better is that your bread no longer lasts for two weeks.  If you really think about what that means, you may come to realize its a good thing 🙂