Source: International Federation for Produce Standards, "Produce PLU: 2006 User's Guide," plucodes.com
These 4 or 5 digit numbers, assigned to loose and bunched grocery items, are international designations used for coding - and they're a quick way to tell whether produce is conventionally grown, organically grown or genetically modified (GM).
- Organic produce has a five-digit number beginning with a 9. Organic bananas, for example, would be given the designation of 94011.
- Conventional produce has a four-digit number beginning with a 3 or 4. Therefore, the number on conventionally grown bananas would be 4011.
- Genetically Engineered produce also has a five-digit number on the label and begins with an 8. Again, the number on genetically altered bananas would be 84011.
In 1992, the FDA declared that biotech foods were the same as conventional foods – because the biotech companies said so. The number 8 was then instituted since the produce industry thought consumers would prefer genetically modified food moreso than conventionally grown food. It did not take long for them to find out differently. Although the number 8 designation can still be found, it is rare. The biotech industry is also fighting any sort of labeling for their inventions – now that they know consumers really do not want them. As it stands now, Hawaiian papaya is about the only food you will find that has the number 8 in front of it.
Unless the label specifically states “certified organic”, it is a safe bet that any food containing corn, soy, and cottonseed oils has a GE origin. These processed foods will not have the genetically engineered PLU code that would alert the consumer. In addition, manufacturers of GE products are not subjected to any special review, approval, or labeling. The organic producer is, however. Ironic, isn’t it – something that is grown naturally requires more scrutiny than does something containing any number of harmful substances?