GMO News

Published on October 1st, 2011 | by Heather Carr


October Unprocessed and Non-GMO Month

This month is October Unprocessed – a month where I pledge to eat nothing but unprocessed food.

October Unprocessed is the brainchild of Andrew Wilder of and this is the third year they’ve done this.

It’s a simple challenge (seemingly). Only eat unprocessed food for a month.

What counts as processed?

For the purposes of this challenge, they’ve given us a “Kitchen Test” to determine what’s processed and what’s not. The Kitchen Test:

Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.

In other words, if the list of ingredients on a jar or can contains only foods you have in your kitchen or that you could buy at an ordinary grocery store, it’s probably considered unprocessed in this challenge.

Grapes, tomatoes, and lettuce are easy examples. Pretty much any raw food is going to be unprocessed by definition. It gets a little trickier with prepared foods. It can be quite surprising to learn what’s in some foods.

Bread, for instance, can be highly processed, but it can also be simple. At its most basic, a loaf of white bread is flour, yeast, salt, and water. Maybe some sugar if you use that to proof the yeast.

Check the label on a loaf of commercially made bread at the store and you’ll probably find that it also contains ethoxylate diglycerides, sodium stearyl lactolate, calcium propionate, and a bunch of other things that probably aren’t in your pantry. I have no idea where to go to get those chemicals, but I’ll bet they aren’t at my supermarket.

Even though I don’t often make my own bread, I could. Most of us could with enough time and space (and inclination), but it’s much easier just to buy someone else’s baked product. Therefore, a loaf of bread prepared by someone else can be an unprocessed food, depending on the kinds of ingredients in the bread.

Likewise, more complicated and time-consuming (to make) food and drink, like beer, wine, and cheese, could still fall within the Kitchen Test. I’ll have to check the ingredients list for each one I want to eat or drink this month.

October is Non-GMO Month

October is also Non-GMO Month, so I’ll be avoiding genetically modified ingredients, too. I figured that I’d just pile that on top of my October Unprocessed Challenge.

After all, where do most genetically modified foods end up? In the processed foods that line the shelves of American supermarkets.

The list of commercially available GM foods is short, but the ones that are out there are nearly ubiquitous. Corn and soy are nearly all GM in the U.S., which is where I live and shop. Unless they’re organic or clearly labeled non-GMO, I’ll avoid foods containing those as an ingredient. Canola, sugar beets, cottonseed oil are three more very common ingredients that are nearly all GM in the U.S.

There are a few others. GM sweet peppers are being grown in China. Since I buy locally grown vegetables, I don’t have to worry about that. There’s also papaya, zucchini, and sugar cane in the U.S. I don’t like papaya or zucchini anyway.

The challenge starts for me when I wake up on Saturday. I hope you’ll join me – for the whole month, if you can. Or for just a day or even one shopping trip, if you prefer.

Image by Mullica, used with Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .

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