Those annoying stickers that are often difficult to peel off our fruit actually contain helpful information about how that fruit was grown. These stickers are PLU (price look up) labels, which many of us have thought had the sole purpose of telling the checker at the grocery store what to enter to charge us for the right produce. However, those codes actually can tell us much more than that.
In 2012, many Californians were upset when voters did not pass Proposition 37, which would make GMO labeling mandatory. GMO stands for “genetically modified organism,” which means that food’s genetic material was altered using genetic engineering techniques. That is far from natural. Understanding how to read PLU labels can detour consumers from purchasing GMO fruit without having to have a specific “GMO grown” label on it.
PLU labels have three categories: conventional, genetically modified, and organic.
Conventional: PLU codes for all conventional fruits are four digits. It is safe to assume that conventionally-raised fruit contains pesticides and petroleum-based , as well as being grown in depleted soils.
The other two types of PLU labels on fruits are five digits. It is important to distinguish between these two by their first numbers, because that first number makes all the difference.
Genetically modified: PLU codes for genetically modified fruits are five digits long and begin with the number 8. This fruit contains genes that were not put there by Mother Nature. Science made this fruit.
Organic: PLU codes for organic fruit (defined as organic by the National Organic Standards Board, or NOSB) are five digits and begin with a 9. Although the organic standard as defined by the NOSB are not as strict as many organic enthusiasts would like them to be, these fruits are still superior to conventional and GMO grown fruit.
Knowing to differentiate fruit-based on its PLU is a very helpful tool when shopping at your local grocery store, since the origins of such produce are not typically advertised. Since learning this trick is relatively easy to remember, the next time you are grocery shopping, browse through the produce section and try to apply your newfound knowledge. You might be surprised by what you find!
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