TODAY   |  January 14, 2014

How to tell if your food has GMOs

Although the FDA says that genetically modified ingredients in food are safe, some still believe they may be harmful. NBC diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom reveals how to tell whether there are genetically modified organisms in what you’re eating.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> did you know the cereal you're eating right now could contain gmos ?

>> well, earlier this month, general mills said it would no longer use these ingredients in the original cheerios but made no plans to change their other varieties. what exactly are gmos ? and are they harmful to your health? here to break it down is madeline. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> let's start with the basics, what is a gmo ? and is it harmful?

>> a gmo is a food that has some dna, some genetic material inserted into that so that the new plant has positive qualities. things like being more resistant to pests. it can grow in harsher weather. it can have a better nutrient profile. so fda approved of all of these things. this is saying these are safe, there's no health risk. and these are good to use to improve the food supply . but there's a lot of debate.

>> where does the concern come from? it has caused some, just recently, in fact.

>> the concern comes from adjusting dna and saying this is not nature's way, will this be safe? so the short-term studies say, yes, it's safe. it does not cause increased food allergies , other illnesses. but the bigger debate is if this is in your food and it stays in the food supply , should you be able to know about this? because it's everywhere. if you have sources that are genetically modified foods. every processed food including oils, these are gmos , they can be in every packaged food, things like corn starch . it can be an animal feed , foods people eat as ingredients or alone. and you don't know if you're getting it. the question is, should you be able to know if this is in your food if you want to avoid it?

>> and that's really it. our companies now are not required to disclose whether or not they're using ingredients.

>> one of the big debate, the fda says it's safe. we don't have to have mandatory labeling. what you do want to have is a way to say how is this not in your food if you want to avoid it? and a great way to look at usda organic foods as part of the fda regulation, organic foods cannot have any gmos added ever. no seeds, no ingredients. so if you are looking for a gmo -free option, look for the usda organic seal.

>> as long as it says organic on it.

>> and that will be as close as you can get to being the perfect solution.

>> some of the labels say non- gmo product verified. is that really a non- gmo food ?

>> it's another category that's come from companies that say we want to verify this. we're not going through the whole issue of organic. so this is a third party, a separate assessment. not the company saying we don't use gmos . you might not believe them. this is a verification that, again, does an analysis and says it has a low gmo level. and we test the ingredients, but not always the whole product.

>> so there is a growing push, it seems, for customers asking for greater transparencies from companies. and what is the response? are we starting to see companies do that now?

>> this is really important because a company can say we're not including gmos we want to switch. but having the option, just like you have gluten free and low salt, you can have another category in many products saying these are certified gmo -free, they don't have to be organic, but different testing. sop brands already now will say no gmos does not contain that and you can call the company. but it does have the validation seal and you can call them. go online, give a call if a product you had you're not sure about.

>> okay. and we should mention general mills is saying in the original cheerios they've changed their gmo , they're no longer having gmos in them. a lot of companies doing the same here. chipotle, kashi, ben and jerry's?

>> they're going to tell you if there's a gmo in the product, be right on the package saying it contains it or does not contain it. and many are removing part of the product line . only the original will be gmo free. they'll have these options as part of their portfolio. don't expect it from every product, but it'll be coming soon and even restaurants, chipotle's been a leader in this.

>> there's a reason for all this.

>> thanks so much.

>> you're welcome.

>> thank you.

>>> and this morning, answering your