GMOs vs. Organic – Part 2

In Columns, Features, My Life: Straight Up with a Twist by Tashauna Swanson

Photo of blue tractor in an open green field with overlay text that reads: food for thought gmo vs organic pt 2If you had the option of going to the grocery store to buy food that could prevent you from making so many trips to the doctor, would you do it? Would you do it if it helped you to cut back on medications? Would you do it if it gave you more energy for life, improved your mood, and just made you feel more healthy overall? I think many of us would give a resounding, YES!

Choosing Organic is Choosing Healthy

Prevention is cheaper than letting a problem persist until it gets worse and we are forced to seek medical attention. I’m not saying eating organic is completely going to eliminate the need to see doctors or take medications, but it might help lessen that need.

I know how much I hate spending time in the doctor’s office. Sometimes the visit is in relation to my disability, and other times it’s because I am sick. Either way, I’d rather be doing something else. Also, I question medical professionals a lot. I’m not a person who always feels a new medication or antibiotic is necessarily the answer; doctors are human and don’t always know the answers to everything. I understand with my condition when an antibiotic is necessary, but I can normally also gauge when it’s not yet time for one.

Antibiotics and medications aren’t a cure-all solution. There is a tradeoff I think many people don’t realize. Not only do we become more resistant to prescription drugs over time, they also attack good things in our systems as well—like good gut bacteria.

By the way, have you heard some of those pharmaceutical commercials lately? The lists of side effect risks grow longer (and weirder), while the benefits lists grow shorter!

Should something you are prescribed to help a problem also have fifty risks and warnings on the label—one of which could be death?

Between GMOs sprayed with toxins like glyphosate, and the over-prescription of pharmacy drugs, our bodies are sure taking a beating.

In the first segment of this article, I mentioned a little about how our digestive systems are a central part of how our bodies stay healthy. The small intestine is where a lot of the action happens, and when our digestive systems are thrown off balance our ability to keep our natural immunity strong is majorly affected.

The way this occurs is our small intestines have a semipermeable wall that lets the good stuff we absorb from our food into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, toxins we are taking in from processed foods, foods that have been sprayed with chemicals, medications, antibiotics, etc., cause holes to form in our small intestine as a result of the imbalance of the gut flora bacteria. Larger food particles leak out through these holes and end up in the bloodstream before they have been broken down and the toxins filtered out properly. Our bodies then attack these particles with antibodies in an immune response, as well as attack healthy cells in the process (1).

This is called leaky gut syndrome.

Sounds kind of gross, doesn’t it?

It’s a syndrome that many haven’t heard of. Many people don’t even realize their health issues are caused because they have it. It  is the root of a wide range of health conditions ranging from regular fatigue and anxiety, to much more serious conditions like MS and those I mentioned in part one of this article.


Time to Shop Organic

Taking a probiotic supplement is one easy way to encourage the balance of the good gut flora. I take a probiotic chewable once per day. I also take an omega-3 supplement which is a combatant that helps reduce inflammation in the body.

If you aren’t too keen on taking supplements, you might want to begin by trying to switch to an organic diet. Eating differently probably isn’t something that will happen overnight, and with anything relating to our health, results won’t be immediate. But, if you can even slowly reduce the amount of toxic foods you consume, you will be taking steps towards the goal of feeling healthier.

I’ll be the first to admit, eating organic is sometimes not as easy as going to the local grocery store and buying everything you need on your list. It depends a lot on your local resources. I don’t live in an area that has a lot of organic availability; it’s a college town with a Hy-Vee grocery and a Super Walmart, and neither store offers nearly enough selection to fully transition into an organic lifestyle. I try to buy organic when I can. So, Whole Foods, if you’re listening…we need you here!

For some, the task of shopping organic might also sound daunting if you haven’t done much research or are overwhelmed by information (Like I have probably made you feel since part one of this article). The first thing to remember about looking for organic products is you will be able to find a seal on the label that says it is certified organic. This means the product meets the regulations necessary to be classified organic. It has been grown or made without any GM ingredients or toxic chemicals. One hundred percent organic is best, but if you cannot find it, go with the highest percentage of organic available.

Another label you can look for is the Non-GMO Project label. The Non-GMO Project is an organization that tests both conventional and organic foods for GMOs. This is a purchasing option if certified organic can’t be found in your local grocery store.

Also, organic and natural do not mean the same thing. If you see anything described as natural, investigate it. The term can be quite misleading and the product may contain little more than natural coloring or flavoring made from natural extracts.

Before I go on, I decided it might be helpful to put together a list of steps you can take to transition into a habit of eating better.


      • Read the labels on the foods you already eat. There are a lot of nasty additives in processed foods, a lot of which come from GMO crops or are disguised under the names of other ingredients that don’t sound harmful. Some of the ingredients to watch for and avoid in these foods are:
        • Top ten to avoid: Artificial Sweeteners (Aspartame, Equal, NutraSweet), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), Trans Fat, Common Food Dyes, Sodium Sulphite, Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite, Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydrozyttoluene (BHT), Sulphur Dioxide, and Potassium Bromate(2).
        • Others to watch for: Amino Acids, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, and Yeast Products(3). A few of these that sound like good things to consume may not be from natural sources. It’s something to be aware of when reading labels.
      • If you are unable to buy organic produce, only purchase conventional produce that is on the “Clean Fifteen” list. These fifteen fruits and vegetables may not be organic; however, they are a lot safer to eat than other non-organic produce because of how they are grown. These items are conventionally grown with the least traces of pesticides.
        • The “Clean Fifteen”: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes(4).
      • Buy organic when it comes to produce on the “Dirty Dozen Plus” list. These fruits and vegetables can be GMO, and contain residues of hazardous pesticides. A few additions have been made to this list since the original dozen.
        • The “Dirty Dozen Plus”: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Also, kale, collard greens, and hot peppers(4).
      • If possible, buy organic, antibiotic and hormone free meat, poultry, and dairy. Anytime we consume food from an animal source, we are absorbing small quantities of what may have been injected or fed into them. For instance, factory farms may have injected their cattle with hormones like bovine growth hormone (rBGH) or recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). These hormones end up in the milk we drink and over time, they do affect us.
      • When buying fish, opt for wild caught instead of farm raised. Fish that are farm raised also may have had antibiotics. Wild caught are antibiotic free and not raised in a contained environment.
      • Look for organic breads, grains, and pastas. Conventional breads, grains, and pastas could contain GMO wheat. Breads also contain a lot of other ingredients to enhance texture and longevity. If you eat a lot of food containing grains, consider your organic options.

A quandary that is often heard about organics is they are more expensive. The answer is both yes and no. It is dependent on your local resources and availability, as well as what you are buying. If something is locally grown and you can buy it directly from a grower, some of the middlemen are knocked out of the producer to consumer chain which lowers costs. Grass fed organic meats are always more expensive, while you can get things like organic flour or pasta for about the same or sometimes a better price.

It can be tough when on a small budget. Just try to do what you can. Maybe begin by evaluating what foods you eat most and seeking out their organic equivalents. Try cutting out the most unhealthy items from your kitchen and looking for alternatives as well.

If you live in a city, you have more access to organic brands and can price compare between those brands to find the best deal. For those of us who live in more rural regions, we might have better access to cheaper, fresh, locally grown foods, but the grocery stores might be lacking variety.

To find the best priced organic products, I have included a list below of some tips to help you out!


      • Grow your own produce: This is probably the most unrealistic option on this list. Not everyone has the ability to start a garden, the space for one, or the time; but it is an option for some. Then you can save some cost and you’ll know exactly what went in to growing your food.
      • Visit local farmer’s markets or buy through a Community Supported Agriculture farm: Buying locally you can have access to some really fresh and great tasting foods. It also cuts out the middle man, and you can ask the producer any questions you may have about how they grew or made what they are selling. Check for some of the farmer’s markets or CSA listings in your area.
      • Ordering Online: Once a month I order from It is a service that lets communities set up a drop point on a delivery route. There may already be a drop point in your area. Many of their products can also be shipped UPS to your door. Otherwise, every month the truck comes through and delivers your goods on a particular day. I love this service because I get to try new healthier foods, and I don’t think most of the prices are too bad. Other sites you can order online from are and
      • Buying in bulk: Buying in bulk is usually cheaper per unit, however, I know it’s not the best option on a small budget. One store that gets some praise for their bulk organic products is Costco. There is a membership fee, but for a family or someone who needs a lot of fruits and vegetables for smoothies or juice, it would be worth it. If you have a limited budget, like myself, or are a little scared to buy in bulk, try to find other people who would like to go in with you on a membership or shopping trip and divide up the bulk items and the cost so you are spending less at once.
      • Search for coupons and discount codes: There are tons of couponing sites online where you can look for discounts on your favorite items. Check out brand website as well, or their social media. You can also download shopping apps to your phone, like Retail Me Not.
      • Use apps for stores you already shop at: Target has recently made moves to carry more organic merchandise. Don’t forget to use the Target app to check for money saving deals.
      • Buy frozen: In order to save money on fruits and vegetables, buying frozen is a great option!
      • Freeze your meals: Whether you cook for yourself, or someone cooks for you, if you bought a lot of organic ingredients to make a certain dish and you know there will be leftovers, don’t let the extra servings go to waste. Freeze them and eat them on a night when you don’t feel like cooking or are running short on time.

Hopefully, those are some good tips to get you started on trying to save money and get the organic foods you currently love or want to try!

We have come into a time where we must fight harder than ever for our health. It’s our responsibility to be aware of what we put into our bodies, and the positive and negative short or long term effects that may result from our choices. We can’t assume anything is truly healthy for consumption without reading the labels on our medications and our foods.

We can no longer follow blindly and go along with everything these biotech corporations like Monsanto are telling us. There is so much more information out there in regards to health, food, agriculture, and the environment that I wasn’t able to cover in this article. I urge you as a consumer to also do your own research in making the choice you feel is best for you and your loved ones.


    1. “Leaky Gut: What It Is and How to Heal It”:
    2. “Top 10 Food Additives to Avoid”:
    3. “GMOs and Your Family”:
    4. “EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™”:


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