UPDATED: March 4, 2011
I know a lot of people give up meat because they believe eating meat is inhumane or that being a vegetarian or vegan for that matter is healthier. But, how many of them know that the soy they eat as an alternative to meat is genetically modified? So, that Boca Burger you enjoy because it’s not meat and the label reads “natural”—a term that is absolutely meaningless in the United States—it’s genetically modified.
Let’s take a look at the “Best-Tasting Vegetarian Food” according to WebMD and see if they pass or fail regarding use of GMOs.
Morningstar Farms Meal Starters — Fail
We already knew this because Morningstar Farms is owned by Kellogg’s, and Kellogg’s is on the pro-GMO bandwagon. From the Morningstar Farms website:
The ingredients we use have been approved by the appropriate regulatory authorities and all of our products comply with food labeling requirements in markets where they are sold throughout the world. We recognize that some veggie foods consumers may prefer foods that do not contain biotech ingredients. We offer Morningstar Farms® Breakfast Patties Made with Organic Soy. At this time, all of our other Morningstar Farms products contain biotech ingredients.
Gardenburger Breakfast Sausage — Pass
Gardenburger made the move to non-GM soy in December 2000 in response to consumer concerns.
To ensure that the soy used in Gardenburger products is not genetically modified, the company is requiring its suppliers to certify that the entire supply — from the seed through the manufacturing process — meets strict non-GMO standards. In addition, Gardenburger randomly tests its raw materials as well as its finished product. Gardenburger makes several varieties of great tasting soy-based products, including Gardenburger Flame Grilled(TM) Hamburger Style and Chik’N Grill, a new chicken-like filet. These Gardenburger products carry a prominent “Made from Non-GMO Soybeans” label.
Amy’s Cheese Pizza Pocket Sandwich – Pass
You can add Amy’s to your shopping list. In addition to being organic, and not using GM ingredients, they are supportive of labeling those products that do. I love that on their website they encourage you to contact your congressman regarding this issue.
Amy’s Kitchen, Inc. does not purchase any GMO containing ingredients. All suppliers are asked to provide a guarantee in writing that ingredients are neither derived from nor manufactured using genetically modified organisms. Where appropriate Amy’s may engage in additional testing.
Amy’s All American Veggie Burger – Pass
Gardenburger (Original) — Pass
Boca Garden Vegetable Meatless Burger – Unclear
Even though these are organic meatless burgers, they are not necessarily GMO-free. According to the Organic Consumers Association:
BOCA Burgers is a popular so-called “natural” brand of veggie burgers owned by Kraft Foods. Companies like Kraft work hand-in-hand with Monsanto to lace common foods with GM (Genetically Modified) ingredients, with absolutely no labeling nor safety-testing required, and in many cases market these products as “natural.” Kraft, North America’s largest food company, has perfected the art of turning genetically engineered crops and animals raised in factory farms on GMO feed and injected with Monsanto’s (now Elanco’s) rBGH into “food.”
While Kraft/BOCA claims to offer what they describe as “non-GMO” versions of its soy foods, these products are neither certified organic (organic prohibits GMOs) nor monitored by the Non-GMO Project, so it’s impossible to verify BOCA’s non-GMO claims. Likewise, Back to Nature, another so-called “natural” Kraft brand, claims that some of the corn and soy ingredients in their non-organic foods are “non-genetically engineered,” but these claims are not verifiable either.
Boca Italian Meatless Sausage – Unclear
Boca Original Meatless Chik’n Nuggets — Unclear
Michael Angelo’s Eggplant Parmesan — Caution
I think this is a safe bet, but a little more research needs to be done. From their website:
When Michael Angelo’s created its Italian Natural Cuisine line of entrées for the natural and organic market, many of our dishes already met the strict guidelines for all-natural ingredients required by natural food stores.
Our Natural line goes even further to ensure the most wholesome natural meals. Here, you’ll find some of our original favorites and meatless dishes created with only the highest quality ingredients, including organic tomatoes, naturally raised beef, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free chicken and all natural sea salt. And rest assured – our entrées are free from any preservatives, artificial flavors or colors.
This all sounds good, but we know that other’s out there (i.e., Boca Burgers) say they are “natural” when they are anything but. I will write to them regarding this and update this as soon as I hear a response.
Michael Angelo’s responded within 24 hours to my email regarding the use of GMO ingredients in their products.
There is no way of knowing. I ask the nutritionist and she said they do not trace far enough back to state this. Sorry, not much help.
Customer Service Representative
I think it’s better to err of the side of safety here and pass by the Michael Angelo’s products until they make a commitment to “know” what’s in the ingredients they use.
O’Hana House Vegetarian Indian Curry Bite Size Won Ton — Caution
From their website it seems their products are organic, but there is no information about the use of GMO. Again, I will write to them regarding their GMO policy and post an update soon.
O’Hana House responded to my inquiry almost immediately with the following:
None of our products contain GMO ingredients.
By default Organic is NON_GMO.
Thank you and please let us know if you have any other questions.
While organics are a safe bet, they are not by default non-GMO. Cross-contamination does happen (see references below).
Amy’s Indian: Vegetable Korma (Organic) — Pass
Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs — Pass
Looks like the Trader Joe’s Brand is GMO-free. From their website:
The finest quality, natural ingredients. This means:
NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
NO genetically modified ingredients
NO added Trans Fats
That’s quite a name, if we do say so ourselves
Trader Joe’s Vegan Pad Thai with Tofu – Pass
Trader Joe’s Garden Vegetarian Lasagna – Pass
Trader Joe’s Thai Vegetable Gyoza – Pass
Trader Joe’s Meatless Corn Dogs – Pass
Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burger — Pass
With so many great non-GMO otpions, why would anyone eat Kraft (i.e., Boca Burger) or Kellogg’s (i.e., Morningstar Farms) vegetarian products. Make the commitment to eat non-GMO.
1. Contamination From Genetically Modified Alfalfa Certain, Experts Say. www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/gmo-alfalfa-contamination-certain_n_820469.html
2. GMO Alfalfa: Issues of Cross-Contamination and Biodiversity. www.justmeans.com/gmo-alfalfa-issues-of-cross-contamination-biodiversity/42904.html
3. Cross-Contamination of Non-GMO Crops Affecting Organics. www.biotech-info.net/cross_contamination.html
4. Buffer Zone Can Not Prevent GMO Cross-Contamination. www.gmwatch.org/lates-listing/1-news-items/9542-buffer-zones-can-not-prevent-gmo-cross-contamination-