Imagine yourself walking through a beautiful produce section of a local grocery store. Vibrant vegetable colors and sweet scents of ripening fruit tempt you to buy one of everything. You pick up a bunch of bright yellow bananas and notice a sticker that has been placed on the fruit. Now imagine that sticker to read “This banana may contain herbicides and pesticides.” Would you still buy it?
What if the sticker said, “The DNA in this product has been modified to resist pests by producing it’s own insecticide.” Would you buy that one?
You may or may not already know, but the little stickers on bulk produce are already giving you these warnings. You just need to know how to read them.
Beginning in 1990, The International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) created a defined list of PLU (Price Look Up) numbering codes for bulk produce. They were instituted not only for inventory purposes, but to also help cashiers quickly look up correct prices for certain produce. Before the codes, it may have been difficult to know the difference between conventionally grown apples and organic apples, which probably cost a bit more. Since then, there are now over 1300 PLU’s available for use.
How do we know what the numbers mean? Well, there are basically three rules that you’ll want to remember to help you make the best decisions on your purchases.
1.) If there are FOUR numbers on the sticker, it means the item was conventionally grown (grown for mass production typically with the use of herbicides and pesticides)
2.) If there are FIVE numbers on the sticker and the number starts with an “8″ it means the item has been genetically modified. Put it down and move your cart as far away as possible. That’s my advice anyway.
3.) If there are FIVE numbers on the sticker and the number starts with a “9″ it means the item has been organically grown.
Please note that the use of PLU codes are an option for companies. Not all produce, particularly genetically modified varieties, will have a code. Hopefully, someday soon, the US will make mandatory the labeling of GMO’s. It would just make things so much easier, wouldn’t it? Until then, I’ll just have to keep going around with my Mr. Yuk stickers and labeling everything myself. Just kidding.
Sort of. (maybe if I could still find those stickers…)