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Saying “No” to GMOs

How to avoid genetically modified organisms in your gluten-free diet

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When Marcia Popp, a 50-year-old graphic artist, began a nutrition coaching program with me last year, she had numerous health problems, including multiple food and environmental allergies. She had also been diagnosed in 1990 with a systemic immune condition known as eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS), which she developed after taking tryptophan supplements that were later found to be tainted.

Marcia had already cut gluten out of her diet, so I advised some different changes to cater to her other food intolerances. I knew that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were implicated in allergies-and that the tryptophan linked to EMS had been produced using genetically modified bacteria-so I recommended that she avoid genetically modified foods to see if it made a difference.

I’m happy to report that it did. Marcia’s seasonal allergies are mostly gone, and, working with her allergist, she was able to stop taking most of her allergy medications. Her asthma has improved to the point that her lung function tests recently hit 98 percent-the highest they’ve ever been. And certain immune cell counts regularly tested to monitor her EMS condition are now in the normal ranges for the first time in almost 20 years. “The results have been amazing,” says Marcia.

Hidden Causes

The incidence of allergies and asthma has dramatically increased in the past 20 years. During that same time, novel proteins from GMOs have been introduced into our food supply. Coincidence? Not really.

During the genetic modification process, unintended consequences that increase the likelihood of allergic reactions can occur. Cooked GM soy, for example, contains about seven times more trypsin inhibitor, a known allergen, than cooked non-GM soy. For these reasons, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and the AllergyKids Foundation recommend avoiding GMOs to protect against allergies. If you eat gluten free and would like to avoid GMOs, try these tips:

  • Buy gluten-free food products that have the USDA Organic seal. The seal means that no genetically modified ingredients or derivatives were used in the manufacture of the product. An example: GoRaw organic crackers and cookies by Freeland Foods, which have also been certified by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO).
  • Look for gluten-free packaged foods that are Non-GMO Project Verified. Such products include EDward & Sons Brown Rice Snaps, Organic Sunshine Burgers, Lundberg Family Farms rices and rice pastas, Lotus Foods heirloom rices, and Nutiva organic coconut, hemp seeds, flax seed, and chia seed products. Mary’s Gone Crackers Sticks & Twigs and Crackers and RW Garcia tortilla chips are both Gluten-Free Certified by GFCO and Non-GMO Project Verified. To download a handy Non-GMO Shopping Guide, go to
  • Avoid conventional forms of at-risk ingredients. Watch out for non-organic corn, soy, canola oil, cottonseed oil, and sugar from sugar beets. (Many foods that list “sugar” in their ingredients contain a mixture of sugar from sugar cane and GM beet sugar). Either steer clear of foods with these ingredients or purchase products that have the Non-GMO Project Verified seal or organic forms of these ingredients. Also avoid papaya from Hawaii, conventional zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and corn on the cob, all of which may be genetically modified.
  • When eating out, order food that’s cooked in olive oil. Stay away from anything made with vegetable oil, which almost always means soybean, corn, canola, or cottonseed oils, common sources of GMOs.

Creamy Macadamia Vegetable Dip

serves 16

Most party dips are made with milk-based sour cream, yogurt, or cheese; or soy- or canola-based mayonnaise, which likely contain GMOs. This gluten-free dip avoids such GMO at-risk ingredients altogether.

1 Tbs. plus ½ tsp. organic extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup macadamia nuts (raw or gluten-free, dry roasted), divided

¼ cup finely chopped fresh organic spinach leaves, stems removed

1½ tsp. minced red onion

1½ tsp. chopped fresh celery leaves

Unrefined sea salt, optional

  1. Place 1 Tbs. olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, ¼ cup macadamia nuts, and 2 Tbs. water in blender. Grind, then purée until smooth. Add remaining macadamia nuts ¼ cup at a time. Grind, then purée, adding more water as needed to create a creamy texture.
  2. Pour purée into serving bowl, and mix in spinach leaves, red onion, celery leaves, and ½ tsp. olive oil until well distributed. Salt to taste, and serve with Non-GMO Verified gluten-free chips, flax crackers, or fresh veggie sticks.


* Recipe reprinted from the Going Against the Grain Group, 2011.