Sunday, October 09, 2005

How to Spot Organic or Genetically Modified Produce

Look at its PLU (Price Look Up) code. It's usually printed on a sticker stuck to the fruit, hanging from a twist-tie that wraps a bunch of greens, etc.

Conventional produce is labeled with a 4-digit number, such as #4166 on the onion I've shown. Organic produce is prefixed with the number 9. If this onion was organic, its PLU would read #94166. Genetically modified (GM) produce is prefixed with the number 8, e.g. #84166 for a GM onion.

Growers aren't required to label GM produce as such. There was a time they thought people would pay more for it, but lately, they've decided not to divulge. If you do see any 8-prefixed fruits or vegetables, I'd love for you to note them in comments. I haven't seen any.

However! If produce is prefixed with a 9, for organic, you can be sure it wasn't genetically modified.

Just for fun, here's a site where you can enter the PLU of any item of produce and receive back its data. Try it! (A few innocuous questions will get you through to the site.)

International Federation for Produce Coding


Ali said...

this was very helpful, thanks for taking the time to post this info. i have yet to come across an 8- PLU, they should make it mandatory to label it as such.

Bix said...

Thanks, Ali. Yes ... There should absolutely be requirements to label genetically engineered food! Obama made this campaign promise.

Unknown said...

It is unethical for a company not to label their products as genetically modified. We have the right to know what we are eating.

Unknown said...

what does an onion with the label #67245 mean?

What does the starting number 6 signify

Bix said...

Hi Manjusha,
I checked the IFPS site (International Federation for Produce Standards) and it said:

"Why would a PLU code start with the number ‘6’ or something other than a ‘9’?

The only prefix recognized by the global system is ‘9’ which represents organically grown produce. PLU codes starting with the prefix ‘6’ are not part of the internationally standardized list of PLU codes for use with fresh produce, so PMA is unable to provide much clarity on where the number originated and what it represents. Perhaps it is part of a proprietary coding system outside the scope of the international list. PMA suggests you contact the produce manager at your local store as he/she may have access to that information."