Genetically Modified, Conventional or Organic—Going Beyond PLU codes

In the wake of the the Organic Elite’s (Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley) betrayal, I have been thinking about ways that folks can empower themselves as more genetically modified foods inevitably make their way into our “health food” stores.

Many of you may be familiar with PLU codes—an identification number found on produce, herbs and a few other grocery store items—that makes check-out and inventory control easier and more efficient. A PLU code is believed to be your key to identifying if that tasty looking apple is conventionally grown (full of pesticides and grown with petroleum-based fertilizers in depleted soil), organically grown (pesticide-free and non-GMO) or genetically modified frankenfood (not from nature, not food).

PLUs for conventionally grown produce are usually a four-digit number, currently in the 3000–4999 range. If an item is organic, you will see a five-digit number beginning with the number 9. If it is genetically modified, you will see a five-digit number beginning with the number 8.

Personally, I try to only purchase produce with a PLU beginning with a 9. I help myself remember the code with the little rhyme “9 is fine.” For now, a PLU seems to be the only thing to count on if you buy from larger stores. Certified organic products, in the US and Canada, cannot intentionally include any GMO ingredients, but as we know, seeds float and travel through the air…

International bestselling author, filmmaker and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Jeffrey Smith, says, “The great news is that there are only 4 GMO veggies or fruits at this point: papaya, but only from Hawaii and no where else; some zucchini and yellow squash, and corn. For these, unless it says organic or boasts a non-GMO sign in the store, eating them is a gamble. It could be GMO.” You can also add sugar beets, alfalfa and soybeans to the list.

It’s important to become familiar with the most common genetically modified foodstuffs, as well as the product derivatives that are most likely to be genetically modified, since there are a lot of differing opinions about relying on PLU codes. Some say that PLUs can be your secret savvy-shopper weapon, while others, like Jeffrey, say that GMO codes are “hypothetical” and not designed to communicate with customers since they are optional for retailers to use.

Since PLUs are currently optional to use, and especially since many Americans are afraid of genetically modified foods, retailers, and even some seed suppliers when selling to farmers, opt out of using the identifying numbers.

The bottom line usually wins out over concern for the health of the people. There’s not a lot of money to be made on a planet full of healthy, informed people. And there is plenty of money to cover up the issues caused by producers of genetically modified product as well as advertise its unfounded benefits. Companies like Monsanto have approximately $754 million dollars a year just for advertising. Wonder what the ad budget is for organic farming?

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You may be asking why is genetically modified food so bad for us? Doesn’t it increase crop yields and feed a starving world? Watch this entire video for a scientifically thorough explanation of genetically modified foods which are…


…linked to organ failure, reproductive issues and infertility, infant mortality, allergies, immune dysfunction, stunted growth, even death (see video above). Studies have also found that GM toxins have been found in human blood samples, even though they are supposed to break down in the digestive system. The study of 30 pregnant and 39 non pregnant women, detected the Bt Cry1Ab toxin in 93% of maternal and 80% of fetal blood samples. 68% of non pregnant women tested positive as well. The tests included samples of newborn cord blood, an indication that the toxin is passed from mother to baby.

Today, the vast majority of the nation’s two primary crops grow from seeds genetically altered according to Monsanto company patents—patents on life. Monsanto is a name that comes up just about every time the topic of the degradation of our food is addressed. That’s 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn, and if you are familiar with any of Michael Pollan’s work, and if you have seen films like King CornFood, Inc., or read books like Seeds of Deception, you also know that corn and soy make their way, in some form, into more than 25% of foodstuffs in a grocery store.

In the absence of a federal law requiring labels for genetically modified food, 14 states are currently debating whether to mandate labeling for modified foods sold within their borders.

So what can you do about this mess?

If you are someone who cares about your reproductive system, immune system, a host of undetected physical issues, potential disease, the health of the planet and the treatment of farmers, TELL CONGRESS TO LABEL GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD. Tell them that you, and your family, don’t want to be guinea pigs. You can also tell Congress that you don’t want genetically engineered alfalfa or GE fish. Tell the Obama administration to stop the planting of GMO Alfalfa and sugar beets. You candy-lovers can tell Mars and Hershey’s to sign the Non-GM Beet Sugar Registry and you can tell Congress to create a tracking system for cloned animals.

As you shop for foods, take free resources like The Non-GMO Shopping Guide with you. They also provide tips for dining out. There’s even an app for non-GMO shopping.

Please spend some time on sites like Food Democracy Now, The Center for Food Safety

The Environmental Working Group, and The Institute for Responsible Technology, where you can read, watch and listen all about the agribusiness issues that affect your food supply, health and planet. These sites will keep you up to speed on progress, current issues and they will provide you with information for what you can do about it all.

There are a lot of links in this post, because there is a lot you should look into. Take some time this weekend to click through them all, so you make the most informed choices you can for your health.

We should never be too busy to educate and empower ourselves. If you don’t make yourself a priority, who will?

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  1. Thanks so much for the information on PLU’s I had never given them much thought on how to read them. Now it will be easier when I am purchasing a product to know if it is genetically modified. I will pass this along to my readers on Facebook!

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