Finding Alternatives to Genetically Modified Food – Baby Steps

cooking cupboard300.jpgIf you’ve followed the fight people are waging to have GM ingredients labeled in the food products we purchase, you are probably as disappointed as I with the results. Canola, Corn, Cottonseed, Hawaiian Papaya (most), Soybeans, Sugar Beets, and a small amount of Yellow Squash and Zucchini are the eight GM crops in commercial production. Avoiding these crops and their derivatives can be challenging and frustrating. Suddenly swearing off all GM food will leave you with few choices & undoubtedly make your family unhappy. Here are a couple of easy first steps toward a GMO-free diet that involve two common ingredients found in most homes…sugar and cooking/salad oil.

Sugar 2

This one is easy. Buy sugar that is labeled “100% cane sugar” as opposed to “100% granulated sugar” or from sugar beets. The cane form comes in brown and white just like beet sugar does. Molasses/treacle is a by product of the sugar refining process. Be sure the molasses is from cane sugar. If it doesn’t say, it could be a blend of both.

Brands of Cane Sugar

  • C&H
  • Imperial
  • Domino
  • Tate & Lyle
  • Florida Crystals

Finding the right oil or combination of oils to suit your palate is more difficult than simply switching sugars. This is especially true if you use vegetable oil and vegetable shortening exclusively. I grew up with Wesson, but all four Wesson Oils are off my list. Remember, we are avoiding canola, corn, cottonseed and soy. I’ve not seen a “vegetable” oil that didn’t contain one of these.
Not being an expert on shortening since baking is low on my list of cookery skills, I turned to the Internet for help. Lard and butter are alternatives to vegetable shortening. Each impart their special qualities to baked goods. There are also shortenings made from coconut or palm oil. I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post under resources to an article about alternatives to vegetable shortening.
There is also some controversy over the purity of olive oil. In 2012, UC Davis tested “extra virgin” olive oil from eight major brands with 70+ percent failing the test for purity. Cutting the olive oil with lower grade oils was the most common form of adulteration. I’ve been using olive oil for years. In fact, it is the only oil I buy. I will now have to become adventurous in my oil selection.
Not all oils are safe for high temperature cooking and baking. The heat changes the chemistry and they become toxic. Check out “Choosing the Right Oil” at the end of this post. It contains good info on the uses & tastes of the various oils.

Heat Stable Oils with Smoke Points of 410 F or Greater

  • Almond
  • Avocado
  • Grapeseed
  • Hazelnut
  • Palm
  • Peanut/Groundnut
  • Safflower
  • Sesame
  • Sunflower

I wish I could sum up by saying that you will save money by making these changes, however beet sugar is cheaper than cane, and no oil can compete with generic vegetable oil on price. But, where is the value? Voting against GM food with our food dollars is a way to make our wishes known to these large corporations that are contaminating our food. It is also a step toward preserving our health Hopefully, these reasons outweigh the higher prices.
Anyone who wants to share what they know about these oils and their uses, please comment.

Conscientious Cook: Alternatives to Vegetable Shortening
Smoke Points of Various Fats
Choosing the Right Oil

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Finding Alternatives to Genetically Modified Food: These Are Not Your Grandma’s Corn Flakes
Finding Alternatives to Genetically Modified Food: Some Thoughts & a Planning Tool

What Can We Do About Genetically Modified Food?

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