Halloween Candy: On Childhood Joy and GMOs

Another Halloween has come and gone. After hopping from house to house in a celebratory frenzy, our little Ninja Claire came home, plopped on the living room rug and began the ritual carried out for generations: the sorting of candy. I remember doing it myself as a kid, with great excitement, wondering if I had more Sugar Babies this year than last. For Claire, it’s Nerds, Dots and Laffy Taffy that top her list. Twizzlers, too. Watching her sort with joy and precision, I pushed down the sadness and confusion I felt, knowing how happy she is to have all this candy. Knowing it’s all made with genetically modified corn syrup.

I don’t want to dampen her sunny spirits with my concerns or deprive her of confections that give her such happiness. I don’t want her not participating in this sweet indulgence that all her friends partake of. She knows to an extent what genetically modified food is, that it’s not good for her. She knows that it’s in candy. And together we’ve decided that moderation is the key, so she’s fine with one piece a day. I’m proud of her restraint.

So one piece a day it is for a short while, but this doesn’t sit easily with me, because I don’t trust GMOs. Because the FDA does not test for the safety of GMOs, instead relying on the biotech companies that create them to determine if they are safe. Because I know that the dose is not the poison and that children are much more vulnerable. Because studies show it may be affecting her immune systems in ways that may be irreversible.

As of right now about 85 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically engineered to either produce an insecticide or to survive the application of herbicide. GM corn is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called Bt or Bacillus thuringiensis. This produces the Bt-toxin in the corn, an insecticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.

If this stuff is engineered to get into the gut of bugs and kill them, what is it doing to children who ingest it? Companies like Monsanto say nothing at all. Yet, in a recent study in Canada, the Bt-toxin showed up in 93 percent of maternal blood samples, 80 percent of fetal blood samples and 69 percent of non-pregnant women blood samples. Some discredit this study and other studies that raise concerns about the effects of GMOs. Some say we need to be paying serious attention to them.  I tend toward paying attention to them.

Yet I stuck a Laffy Taffy in her lunch today as requested, along with a prayer that I am not doing her harm. What kind of mother am I? I feel so conflicted, dancing between GMO knowledge and a kid’s right to enjoy candy. It’s really the only GMO food she eats. I’m an organic mom for the most part when it comes to the food I feed Claire, but I trip over the candy. I can’t face telling her that it’s poison when it’s candy, something so fundamental to childhood. Maybe the little she has won’t have an effect on her.


I should be like the moms who say no to GMOs all the way. But I can’t seem to do it. I don’t want Claire to feel deprived of such a basic childhood pleasure. I can only hope that this isn’t a decision I will later regret. It sure does take a bit of the happy out of Halloween.  And puts the scariness back into it.


For more information on GMOs, go to the Institute for Responsible Technology

45 responses to “Halloween Candy: On Childhood Joy and GMOs

  1. This is a great reminder to the child and child at heart about this subject matter. I’ve been pretty resistant to any type of sugar based substance that doesn’t come from food that was given to use by God himself for many reasons but occasionally I get a real bad sugar tooth. Just reading this makes me realize and reminds me that I’m not missing out on anything. More people need to hear the news and also to be reminded. We need more Lisa Bardack’s in the world:)

  2. the details about the Bt-toxin are so interesting. I did not know that. I’m tweeting your post. Laurel Peltier 4 Bellemore Road Baltimore, MD 21210 410.433.3106 greenlaurel7@comcast.net


    a down-to-earth eco-glancer. 4 bullet points, one green topic & why it matters to you.

    • Thanks for the tweet, Laurel. It was interesting to learn about what Bt-toxins do to an insect. As I said, how can that not affect the gut of humans? 80% of our immune system is in our gut! There is definitely a significant connection there worth paying attention to.

  3. Thanks for this info. Americans downed approximately 24.7 pounds of candy per capita in 2010. Extrapolated to early October 2012 projected population estimates, that comes to roughly 7.7 billion pounds of candy intake projected this year, peaking at Halloween. This does not even begin to account for the starches, baked goods, ice cream, cakes, starches and so forth. Halloween is the set-up sugar spike for the next three winter holidays, increasing the chances that they will be binges for many instead of mere meal-centered celebrations. Source, National Census / National Confectioners. Halloween’s overrated and underrated in what damage it does to children’s health.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Mike, that Halloween is underrated in the damage it does to children’s health. Yet, as I said, I can’t take away the joy it brings to my daughter on Halloween – and the snack bar at the pool during the summer. Gratefully, she is willing to take in the knowledge that candy is bad for you and moderates her intake without my having to say anything. Yet, as much as I love my daughter more than life itself, I care about all children, and the crap they are taking into their bodies horrifies me. This includes any processed foods that are made with corn or soy products, which most are. When the GMO research being done gets stronger, with greater media coverage, hopefully people will wake up to the fact that this is no way to make food…or candy.

  4. Great post! I thought about blogging about this topic as well! Is it bad that I let my kids eat candy for breakfast today? 🙂

  5. The other big concern for me isn’t just the GMO corn, it’s that chocolate (Yes even the “organic” stuff from Trader’s X) contains high levels of lead thanks to the continued use of leaded gasoline in the countries where chocolate is processed…

    We learned this one the hard way after eating too many chocolate smoothies made from organic, unsweetened, lead-infused dark chocolate.

    • Wow, Greg. That is shocking information! Lead in my beloved chocolate? Seriously that is scary information. I am taking it seriously and may need to search for a brand that is known to be lead free. Is there one?

  6. I shared on Facebook and Tweeted your post … it’s like you were reading my mind when you were writing. Thank you for putting this out for all of us who struggle to be a good mom in a world where it’s getting harder and harder to find real food.

  7. Thank you for posting this at such an opportune time for something else (it’s on the ballot here in California) – the election! I do not have kids, so I don’t have the dilemma of wondering if I’m protecting my babies (in an overall mind-body-spirit way) as best as I can. I still worry about this for myself, my family, my friends, all of us! For those in California, please Vote Yes on Proposition 37! 37 is not perfect by any means, but it’s a step in the right direction – let’s get started on the road to knowing Exactly what is in our food!

    • I agree! Fingers crossed that Prop 37 passes, as it is a step in the right direction. Overall, I think the right direction is not allowing for GMOs at all unless they pass as safe, which from everything I read, they would not. One step at a time, eh?

  8. Good post..but just say NO! There are organic gummy bears…..also the gummy bears from Trader Joe’s claim no GMOs. Although, I don’t trust anyone anymore….that is why I will be homesteading, home schooling and teaching about what is right from the start. I like your post though because it is a demonstrive example of what I used to go through before I went full on organic and beyond.

  9. I don’t think it would be so bad if it were the once-a-year sugar orgy that it used to be. But now, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the garbage people eat all year long. As an annual indulgence, this stuff is one thing, but it’s not so occasional anymore. I wish there were an easier way to deal with it without making kids feel left out of the fun. When I was little, Halloween and Christmas were pretty much the only times of the year when junk food figured prominently, along with one chocolate cream egg at Easter.

  10. Urg! I had toooooooooo many candies today. Thanks for the swift kick in my pants!

  11. You may be interested in another viewpoint. Check out DIABETIC HALLOWEEN CANDY? on my blog, bythemightymumford.wordpress.com. I wrote it before I read this post—honest! —Jonathan Caswell And a WELL-DONE! for you!

  12. That definitely changes my perspective about Halloween. I understand where you are coming from. Should we deprive children from the greatest childhood pleasure or should we protect them? I think we are all being affected by the ever-changing industry of food-processing. So why not let them? Very interesting piece of info anyway…

  13. Great post! Very interesting stuff. You should check out the candy from Unreal. They’re a new company using all natural GMO-free ingredients. The firm was started by a father son team after having a similar candy debate after a Halloween. They’ve been getting quite a bit of press too.

  14. I gave out Fiber One bars to the kids that came to our home for Halloween and the children told me today how they loved them! What do you think of that instead of genetically modified corn syrup!

    • I hate to say it, but Fiber One bars have GM corn syrup in them, as well as soy lecithin (soy is also a guaranteed GM food). That’s the scary part about GM corn and soy. They are in so many food products, which is why so many biotech and food companies are fighting the idea of labeling GM foods. Sad scenario, but I trust that eventually we will have GMO labeling. It’s just a matter of time and more media attention to this issue. Having said this, I still honor your attempt to steer away from the candy. It’s all a matter of being educated and all of us need to be. I just found out from this post that my beloved dark chocolate may have lead in it from the diesel in the air at farms where cocoa is grown. Crazy!!

  15. I get where you are coming form, and you’re doing the right thing. Moderation is the key.

  16. I have halloween candy ALL over my house, it calls my name too :p haha wonderful post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  17. This was an eye-opener. I never knew that stuff about GMO and that it’s in something so common like candy. That’s too bad since I am very fond of sweet things though I do tend to go for organic food most of the time.

  18. yikes…something to think on and investigate, for sure. i am impressed your daughter agreed to one piece a day, too.

  19. Great post. I struggle with this, as well. Even though I know I need to go all organic, no GMO, it is really challenging in our society! I do my best, but try not to beat myself up for not always succeeding, especially at times such as Halloween. It’s hard enough trying to feed our kids healthy without having to worry about the danger of GMO’s! I truly hope Prop 37 is passed in California and we can begin the trend across the country.

    I tried an experiment this year for Halloween and gave trick-or-treaters the option of oranges/stickers or candy. Candy won, but the oranges and stickers/tattoos were really popular! I ran out of the oranges early, too!

  20. It’s tough being a Mom!

  21. Segmation, I hate to tell you, but Fiber ONe bars have High Fructose Corn Syrup and other ingretients made from GMOs. Make sure to read the label. Those fiber One bars are just as bad as the candy. SOrry. Stick with Organic certified and you can’t go wrong. As of now the law is that if it is Organic Certified, no GMOs.

  22. Knowledge can take it’s toll on a mom. I feel the same way about GMOs, and I buy organic as much as I can. I do have to let them have candy because I’ve tried not allowing it. That resulted in them overdosing on sugar whenever they weren’t under my watchful eye. So, I do my best to find a balance. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

  23. I attended a symposium last year featuring a Monsanto executive and a leading expert who has dedicated his life to fighting GMOs. What intrigued me the most is the Monsanto exec’s lack of knowledge and fight against clear labeling that would make it easy to identify foods containing gmo products despite his claim they are harmless

  24. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I can see why. Love your writing and the information. My wife has been doing the candy battle with the kids. Poor things have no idea how bad it is for them. I, infact, had no idea about the insecticide breaking down the gut. Ugh. Doesn’t seem like such a pleasant treat now. Thanks for the information. I’ll be following you and learning more about this.

  25. The GMO controversy is definitely something that needs much more attention…most people do not pay much mind to what they are consuming, let alone to what is inside the foods. It’s great that you’re feeding your child mostly all organic, food in its most natural form. The whole corn syrup thing, man don’t even get me started! It’s great that your child has such discipline that she can resist and limit to one piece a day. If her diet is organic otherwise and healthy, I feel it shouldn’t be too bad!

    This is a little off topic, but I figure it relates to the whole healthy eating thing. It’s just one example of many, if anyone’s interested since it has to do with corn and the majority of America is non-vegetarian/non-organic…

    Consider this … 85% of corn grown in the U.S. is GMO…corn is used to feed a majority of the livestock that provides as a meal to a large portion of the population. What’s wrong with feeding corn (even if it’s not GMO) to livestock? Beef cattle, specifically, do not have stomachs made to digest corn. A normal diet would consist of grass. Why don’t they use grass? Producers want beef cattle to be off the lot and into a bun asap–less than 9 months. In turn, they need to gain as much weight as fast as possible. Feeding them corn appears to do the trick, consequently resulting in additional health problems–the cattle are more susceptible to new diseases and sicknesses since their digestive system is processing an abnormal diet. So the producers pump the cattle with antibiotics to prevent sickness (which wouldn’t be necessary if they were just healthy to begin with!) and hormones (to grow faster). In conclusion, by eating a normal burger, you are not only consuming GMO corn, but an animal that is the result of a GMO diet, hormones, and antibiotics…I wonder if this has anything to do with the increase in obesity, rapid puberty in children, and the countless sicknesses that are becoming ever so prevalent…

    Just my thoughts!

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  26. Excellent blog, you are very good at writing about things people would rather not hear but I agree are critical to address at this time. I would like to share with you how I deal with gmo’s, emf’s, chemtrail fallout, etc., in my own life. (While we’re in transition to more whole organic foods, we can make what we do eat less toxic) I am directing you to a blogpost as it’s too long to copy here. With all of our precious hearts we will find our way through together. Blessings to you and your daughter. https://vibrationalresonance.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/vibesup/

  27. My girls are 13 and 9 and I have scared them by telling them exactly what was in their candy. I felt like I was taking the ‘wind out of their sail’, but they were so curious as to why I winced every time they asked for a treat from their Hallowe’en bag. I believe they are now old enough to know. I never deny them from indulging in one of my healthy homemade treats, so that’s how I make up for all the “no’s” to candy. Great article! Thank you – I’d like to share it.

  28. It really is good you let your child enjoy candy, even if it may contain more chemicals than are found in pesticides. I understand the concern, and though to others it may seem like an unreasonable fear, it is a way more rational fear than razor blades in candied apples, or the like.

  29. I think it’s valid to be concerned but also want to have your child partake in such a common tradition. I know I will struggle with these very issues when my little guy is old enough to go trick or treating. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  30. It’s a tough call, but I’d say a piece of candy a day can’t be THAT bad. At least she’s not eating at fast food restaurants on a daily basis … that’ s got to be far worse. Here’s to basic childhood pleasures!

  31. Reblogged this on How 2 Be Green and commented:
    Great article

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