Rim Country Shoppers Seek Healthier Options

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Genetically modified organisms are as American as apple pie.

We gnaw on growth hormones in our barbecued ribs, snack on antibiotics in our hot fudge sundaes and dine on genetic pesticides in our shrimp scampi.

In fact, Americans consume food the rest of the world won't touch with a 10-foot fork.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, alter the DNA of plants and animals, enhancing their productivity and output, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

"Our bodies weren't designed to digest those things," said Christine Bollier, manager of Back to Basics health food specialty market.

The United States is the world's most prolific producer of GMO products.

In 1994, Calgene, a company that manufactures everything from seeds to chemicals, introduced consumers to the Flavr Savr tomato, engineered to stay fresher, longer.

Twelve years later, more than 60 percent of the globe's genetically altered food grows on American soil, reported the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.

Mounting studies suggest GMOs cause cancer, allergies and other health conditions. Mutated crops can cross-pollinate other plants, imbuing them with toxins while chipping away at natural defenses, the Environmental Protection Agency warned.

That's why the international agriculture community shuns our products: Europeans won't drink our milk, Japan refuses our beef and China snubs our soybeans.

"You are what you eat," said Cali Cole, owner of Back to Basics. "I know that sounds cliché but it's true."

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Shirley Sharp buys organic fruits at Sav Mor market Wednesday. "Organic tastes so much better. It has no pesticides that are bad for your health."

Nevertheless, America's crops and livestock are loaded with genetic mutations.

Take a walk through the dairy section.

The USDA says 22 percent of the nation's milk cows are injected with bovine growth hormones. This medication increases milk output, but exacerbates an udder infection called mastitis.

"Research has shown that (hormone) can be absorbed into the (human) bloodstream where it can affect other hormones," the Cancer Prevention Coalition said.

To control the pus created by mastitis, farmers feed their cows antibiotics, also soaked up by the body.

Continue through the rest of the grocery store. Everything from Spam to Frosted Flakes contains GMOs.

"Organic products have to have the FDA stamp," said Nan Lawler, Bashas' organic section manager. "It's never organic unless it has the stamp."

The top-four genetically modified crops -- soy, corn, canola and cotton -- lurk in practically every nook and cranny of the grocery store, according to the Center for Food Safety.

DNA-altered seed used to grow most crops is engineered to fend off pests and weeds. However, the mutations, can cause serious food allergies and crop contamination, according to the EPA Web site.

To date, the United States does not require food companies to label their GMO products.

"Shopping organic gives you confidence that there are no pesticides in your food," Cole said. "It's pure food, which reflects back to you are what you eat."

That's why increasing numbers of Rim Country shoppers are joining the organic revolution. Every Wednesday health-conscious patrons, like Shirley Sharp, pack Sav-Mor Foods to pick through its fresh shipment of organic produce.

"Organic tastes so much better. It has no pesticides that are bad for your health," she said.

In Payson, Bashas', Back to Basics, Safeway and Sav-Mor offer organic alternatives. For more information and to obtain an organic-shopping list, visit: www.truefoodnow.org.

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