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There’s a food epidemic going on.

While more are becoming enlightened about chemicals masquerading as food, unnatural food environments and unsavory practices behind many restaurant kitchens and grocery stores today, there’s yet another problem to add to this escalating situation: genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

A May 24, 2012 New York Times article brought to light part of the problem: the lack of labeling of GMOs, featuring in many processed foods stacked high on grocery shelves and in our pantries. Since the introduction of GMOs in 1996, thanks to companies like Monsanto and DuPont, the chance that a GMO is on your plate has increased to 90%, and continues to grow.

But even if you avoid most processed foods and consider yourself to be an overly healthy eater, a very common GMO often sneaks in under the radar, due to its neutral taste and heart-healthy pitch: canola.


Canola Oil’s Siren Song

Canola oil is often heralded as the everyman oil, but have you ever wondered if it’s everything it’s advertised to be? Touted as heart-healthy on popular medical sites like WebMD due to its low monounsaturated fats and high levels of Omega-3s, most people do not realize the health consequences of using this GMO yellow oil thanks to the millions of dollars spent on advertising its benefits.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, non-GMO activist and author, told me that one of the main reasons biotech companies created GMOs was “to match crops with chemicals [such as Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready crops] and to turn a profit.”

So it’s no surprise that canola ranks high as one of the nation’s most profitable crops thanks to it’s constant inclusion in processed foods. According to the Canola Council of Canada (CCoC), the “United States imported an average of 510,000 tons of canola oil per year from 2000-2001 to 2004-2005, valued at $345 million/year.”

In the mid-1990s, a new GMO canola was introduced to assist food companies with reducing the amount of trans fat in the foods they produce thanks to a modified fatty acid profile to sustain high heat for frying while not requiring hydrogenation. The CCoC also promises new canola products on the horizon such as ultra-low saturated fat and omega-3 enhanced canola to keep this GMO a mainstay in American diets.

But What Are You Eating?

Canola is created through the mutagensis of rapeseed, which is a known toxic plant, once the source for Mustard Gas, which was used as a chemical warfare agent, and was banned after World War 1 for causing severe blistering of the lungs and skin.

Canola is also tricky to avoid. According to Smith:

“90-95% of canola is genetically engineered. Not only does it have the implanted gene, but also higher quantities of the matching herbicide. Even organic canola has mutagenic origin.”

Doesn’t that make you want to avoid it?

Knowing the man-made chemical source of canola may turn some away from using it, but understanding the fact that long-term side affects have been identified may make the rest question why it’s even allowed on the shelves today. These side effects include inhibiting proper metabolism of foods and normal enzyme function, immune system depression, and Vitamin E depletion. And these do not even include the long term effects of rapeseed.

Take Action

As individual states, such as Vermont and California, start to take action against GMOs, everyone needs to start reading labels and become aware of the origins of their food. We need to make a conscious decision to stop supporting companies that use GMOs.

Click here for a non-GMO shopping guide.