Are there GMOs Hiding in Your Vitamins?

If you’ve educated yourself on the dangers of GMOs, you know the big ones you need to look out for. The crops that are almost always genetically modified, like corn and soy. An overwhelming majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the US is genetically-modified.

Most people who are into real food aren’t very into soy, since it’s kinda terrible for you, so that one seems easy enough to avoid. And we know to watch out for non-organic corn-containing processed food products.

Still, many of us might be consuming GMO food ingredients without even realizing it. And while many consumers try to boost immunity and improve their health with vitamin supplementation, they could unknowingly be taking a daily dose of GMO, too.

Vitamins Commonly Made from GM Corn and Soy

In addition to various artificial food flavorings, enzymes, and other additives, many synthetic vitamins added to foods are derived from GMOs. These are often the very same kind you’d find in most vitamin supplements.

Vitamin C, which you’ll find added to many processed foods, is commonly derived from corn. We know based on the fact that 85% of corn grown is genetically-modified, that the odds aren’t good for a corn product to be free from GM contamination. It’s pretty safe to say that most vitamin C added to “fortify” foods and used in vitamin supplements is likely to be made from GMO corn. So yeah, that’d be a big, “no thanks” on that packet of powdery, fizzy, Vitamin Corn drink for me this coming cold season.

Similarly, your odds of GMO-free vitamin E aren’t much better. Vitamin E is usually derived from soy. With a 9 out of 10 chance that it’s GM soy, I’ll definitely pass on taking a vitamin E supplement.

But even if the vitamin itself isn’t made from a GMO, vitamin supplements commonly carry GM contamination. Vitamins D and K may have “carriers” that are derived from GM corn, such as starch, glucose, and maltodextrin. And many, many multivitamins contain these types of carriers.

“More and more vitamins are coming from genetically modified sources.”

A research director for the Organic Materials Review Institute has stated their concerns with increased risks of GMO-sourced vitamins:

The NOSB [National Organic Standards Board] should be aware that a growing number of vitamins are produced using genetically engineered organisms, making it ever more necessary to develop natural and from organically produced and non-synthetic sources.” Brian Baker, OMRI

Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin), vitamin B-12, vitamin C, and recently, vitamin A are made from a process that involves genetically modified microorganisms.

First, the genetic engineers identify certain types of bacteria or fungi that can produce the vitamin they’re looking for. (Yes, bacteria can produce vitamins, part of the reason why fermented foods filled with tons of probiotic bacteria are so much more nutritious!) But then, they genetically alter the microorganism, seemingly to increase its production, before it’s placed in steel fermentation tanks to produce the vitamin in mass amounts. The vitamins are then “isolated” and supposedly purified.

But does the GM microorganism remain in the finished product? Manufacturers and GMO proponents of course say no, that genetically-altered DNA isn’t found in the vitamins. Somehow, I’m not convinced.

In 1989, a GM-produced supplement was claimed to be responsible for the deaths of 37 people and the disabling of several thousands more in the US. Does that sound like a safe product to you?

GMO Vitamins Could Be in Your Certified Organic Food

With this being the reality of the production of vitamins today, if you’re going to take vitamins, finding organically-sourced supplements ought to be a priority.

But what if you don’t take vitamin supplements? Vitamins are so commonly added to many foods, even certified organic foods, to “fortify” them. So is buying certified organic a guarantee against getting GMO-sourced vitamins dumped into the foods you eat?

Not exactly.

The USDA’s National Organic Program rules state that an organic product “must be produced and handled without the use of excluded methods,” which would include genetic engineering. They aren’t very clear on what exactly counts as an “excluded method,” however.

Gwendolyn Wyard, processing program reviewer at organic certifier Oregon Tilth says that this ambiguous rule has led to “inconsistent interpretations of the GMO prohibition by organic certifiers.” Wyard explained to the Organic Consumers Association that, “an organic processor putting a GM-derived vitamin in their product could say ‘I have handled a product without the use of an excluded method.’”

Additionally, if the processor has received a statement from the vitamin supplier stating that genetically-altered DNA isn’t present or detectable in their product, that’s another way to get the OK for an organic label. ‘Cause the people who sell the GMO vitamins are definitely the ones we should rely on to determine their safety, right?

Avoiding GMO Vitamins

It seems that the only way to make sure you’re not consuming these products of genetic engineering is to avoid manufactured vitamins entirely. I’m a pretty big believer in trying to obtain vitamins from food, not supplements, so I don’t take any vitamins, myself.

And as for foods “fortified” with these GM vitamins, I try to avoid those, too. If it has to be fortified with fake vitamins, it probably isn’t all that healthy to begin with. Foods that are commonly fortified are grain-based products like bread and cereals, and many beverages like juice, flavored water, or tea, so you may want to check their labels to see if vitamins have been added. They very well may be from genetically-modified sources.

If you’re looking for high-quality supplements, I’d recommend checking out the listings on the Village Green Marketplace here.

Could there be GMOs in your food or vitamins?

I think this is yet another reason to support the labeling of GMOs, don’t you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Sources:

“Genetically-Modified Food Abounds in US,” Real Science 

“Vitamins Present GMO Challenges for Organic Industry,” Organic Consumers Association

[photo credit: modified from photo by bradley j on Flickr]

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: Your health is between you and your health care practitioner. Nothing in this blog is intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations is at the choice and risk of the reader.

16 Responses to Are there GMOs Hiding in Your Vitamins?
  1. This is a really important issue many people may not have considered about GMOs. I’d love it if you linked this post up at Small Footprint Fridays, a new sustainable living linkup! Archived posts welcome!

    http://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/small-footprint-friday-sustainable-living-linkup-100512

  2. [...] Synthetic vitamins have many detrimental effects to your health and can even be seriously toxic. They are also commonly made from GMOs. [...]

  3. Jennifer T. says:

    Do you have some vitamin companies that you can recommend/trust?
    Thanks!

    • ButterBeliever says:

      There are some great companies that offer supplements here:
      http://villagegreennetwork.com/marketplace/supplements-superfoods/?pid=38

      But generally, I don’t recommend taking a multivitamin, or synthetic vitamins in isolation. I take desiccated liver, fermented cod liver oil, and I make sure to include plenty of nutrient-dense foods into my diet, like shellfish, raw dairy, and pastured eggs.

    • CF Tan says:

      get to know Dr Rath Health Foundation (non profit org), strong advocate of Cellular Health (health begin at cell level)…. and a pain in the ass to the Big Pharma’s Business With Disease! The foundation vitamins are FREE OF GMO.

  4. Natalie says:

    what do you all think of Juice Plus? Trying to get some good wisdom. We all as a family take it and just saw there is maltodextrin in the childrens chewables…

  5. This is downright scary. And by “powdery, fizzy vitamin C drink” are you referring to Emergen-C??? I love that stuff!! :(

  6. James says:

    There’s a problem with the logic in this article – just a lack of understanding of biochemistry. Even though most vitamin C is made from corn sugar and a majority of corn sugar comes from GMO corn, genes don’t transfer through the 19 chemical steps that it takes to create ascorbic acid. The ascorbic acid is 100% ascorbic acid and, if tested, no corn residues, including genes, will be found.
    I can understand not wanting to support GM-produced products, like corn.
    But there will be none of the potential harm that GMOs can cause if one takes ascorbic acid, because it does not contain corn genes.

  7. Maureen says:

    My husband and I take vitamins from a brand called Rainbow Light which we love. Their products are derived purely from real food, and they have organic food-based options as well. I highly recommend them!

  8. Rob says:

    I was worried about my Thorne Labs vitamin D/K2 supplement but it looks like it’s good:
    http://thorne.com/purity_and_quality/GMO_Policy.jsp

  9. […] GMO corn freaks me out more than other GMO foods, because the corn is genetically modified to produce its own toxic pesticide. That’s right—GMO corn is engineered to serve as its own little pesticide […]

  10. Paul says:

    I recently bought a b complex vitamin supplement from garden of life which is manufactored from whole foods a no syntheic nutrients, they dont formulate with soy or have soy in there formula but on the container it says manufactored on a factory that also processes soy, may contain soy. Do you think most likely it is a small enough amount to not have any negative healt effects? Thanks.

  11. Andrew Vajda says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to have found your article about GMO vitamins.

    I am so passionate about the subject that I’ve opened an online store called http://www.gmofreevitamins.com and so far my only product is certified GMO free ascorbic acid from the last Western manufacturer left outside of China.

    The ascorbic acid is made from certified GMO free corn grown in Scotland.

    I’ve put this online just last 2 weeks ago and work with a very small markup to compete with the Chinese. The only other reseller of this powder retails at 4 times more.

    Thanks so much for helping people realize what’s out there!

    Andrew Vajda
    GMO Free Vitamins LLC
    Miami Fl, 33132

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