GMO labeling initiatives recently lost close contests in California and Washington state, but have your favorite grocery store produce items been labelled all along?
It’s a controversial issue, but many industry observers say the answer is yes. Among them are the folks at One Green Planet, whose popular Web site lists those sticky labels imprinted with cryptic codes as an investigative tool consumers can use to unmask genetically modified fruits and vegetables:
“PLU (Price Look Up) codes are the 4 or 5 number codes on the little sticker that is found on fresh produce. These codes are used for pricing and inventory, but are also different for conventionally grown, genetically engineered, and organically grown produce. Conventionally grown produce is labeled with a 4-digit PLU code that begins with a 4, for example, 4156. Genetically engineered produce (GMOs) are labeled with a 5-digit code that begins with an 8, for example, 89234. And organic produce is labeled with a 5-digit PLU code that begins with a 9, for example, 94142.
“The drawback is that PLU codes are not always a completely accurate way to identify ALL GMOs, because they are primarily used for pricing. … Unfortunately at this time there is no regulated method of labeling GMOs, so there is no guarantee that an item labeled with a ‘conventionally grown’ (or code beginning with a 4) label is definitely not genetically engineered.”
Of course, deciphering store codes is not the only way to avoid GMOs. Rule number one, we would modestly suggest, is to stock up on One Degree products. Beyond that, One Green Planet offers some additional tips:
“Buy organic: All organic food in the U.S. MUST be certified to meet the USDA National Organic Standards. These standards prohibit any genetic engineering, therefore all products labeled as ‘organic’ do not contain any GMOs.
“Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are loaded with additives and contain long lists of ingredients where GMOs can typically be found.…
“Learn to identify and avoid high-risk crops and ingredients: The following ‘high-risk’ items are items which have a very high probability of being a GMO, and should be avoided: Alfalfa, soy, canola, corn, papaya, sugar beets, zucchini and summer squash. Common ingredients derived from high-risk crops include Aspartame, corn flour, soy flour, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), and sugar (unless labeled as cane sugar). If a product contains any of these ingredients on its ingredient list, it probably contains some form of GMO and should be avoided.”
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