You may be certain that your plate is full of healthy food… but the truth might surprise you. Your tomatoes, corn, soybeans, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, crooked neck squash, and even ice cream could have genes from cloned fish, bacteria, or viruses. That’s because you’re not always dealing with the “real thing.” Your grocer’s shelves are likely stacked with genetically modified (GM) foods.

GM foods are increasingly prevalent, but the FDA does not require food labels to specify when ingredients are genetically modified. So it’s not surprising that most people aren’t even aware they’re eating them.

According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 54 percent of people polled hadn’t even heard of genetically modified foods. And though, according to a CBS/NY Times poll, 53 percent said they would not purchase these foods, many common ingredients (including soy lecithin, corn syrup, and cottonseed or canola oil) originate from GM crops. In the United States, three-quarters of the corn used to produce cereals, tortilla chips, and other such products is Roundup Ready corn, which has been genetically altered to resist the weed killer Roundup, according to U.S. News and World Report.

So why avoid GM foods? For one thing, they may be more allergenic. The United Kingdom tracks food allergies, and the year after GM soy was introduced into their food supply, soy allergies jumped 50 percent.

High pesticide content is yet another reason to avoid GM foods. The Center for Food Safety noted that from 1994 to 2005, pesticide use on GM corn, soybeans, and cotton increased by a multiple of 15 due to the increased pesticide resistance of Roundup Ready crops.

Last, but certainly not least, cultivation of GM crops may disrupt our ecosystem. According to the 2004 scientific consensus report of the Food and Agriculture Organization, increased pesticide use may result in herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects. This affects non-pest insects like butterflies as well as animals like frogs and birds.

Whenever possible, avoid GM foods. Do so by purchasing USDA certified organically grown foods which, by definition, cannot be bio-engineered or genetically modified. You can also look for “non-GMO” on the label.

[Ed. Note: It truly is possible to improve your health just by making a few simple changes to your diet and lifestyle. James B. LaValle, RPh, ND, CCN – founder of the LaValle Metabolic Institute and a nationally recognized expert on natural therapies – can give you easy-to-understand directions for living the healthy life you’ve always wanted. Learn how to feel better and live longer right here.]