Many packaged food items such as cereals, infant food, chips and more contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some companies label their products; some do not. Still, some say their products are "natural," which can mislead customers into thinking that the food is free from GMOs.
About 64 percent of Americans understand the "natural" label to mean "no GMOs."
There is no evidence to prove that the consumption of food with GMOs causes illness, but many countries require food producers to label their products if these contain modified ingredients. The U.S. does not, however, require GMO products to be labeled this way.
"Foods that are frozen, made from concentrate or homogenized are all required to be labeled. Why shouldn't products containing GMOs also be labeled?" says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives.
Consumer Reports examined the number of food items that contain GMOs. The product testing organization also wanted to know if people relied on the packaging of certain products that suggest no GMOs.
The group looked at 80 different packaged food items that contained soy or corn, which are the two most genetically modified crops in the U.S. The GMO measurement process involved examining at least two product samples, each from a separate lot. Consumer Reports then compared the test results with the packaging to confirm if food producers provide correct information.
For a food product to meet the requirements of non-GMO, it should not have over 0.9 percent of genetically enhanced soy or corn. Following the European Union's standards, any food item with more than 0.9 percent of GMO should be labeled to confirm the product has GMOs.
The tests found items that did not mention GMO in the packaging contained a substantial amount of ingredients modified genetically. Almost all food products labeled "natural" also contained a substantial amount of GMOs. However, products labeled "Non-GMO" or "No-GMO" met the required standards of non-GMO foods.
"Until GMO labeling becomes mandatory, consumers who want to avoid GMOs should look for 'organic' or 'Non-GMO Project Verified' labels," says Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability.
Rangan also believes that products that say they are "natural" mislead customers and should be excluded from packaging.