Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to avoid genetically-modified food

Thanks to Food Democracy for this handy tip:

The product look-up code (PLU) is a 4 or 5 digit code on items sold loose or by bunch, by weight or by each. Most non-prebagged produce in the supermarket is sold this way. The program is voluntary, but if a shipper is using the system, you can determine whether an item is genetically modified or organic from the PLU.

  • Conventionally grown food (not genetically modified, not organic) will have a 4 digit PLU.
  • Organic food will have 5 digits starting with a 9, e.g. an organically grown banana would be 94011.
  • Genetically modified food will have 5 digits starting with an 8, e.g. a genetically engineered vine ripe tomato would be 84805.

Again, this system is voluntary. No shipper is required to use it, and the fact that there's no "8" prefix on a PLU doesn't guarantee it's not a genetically modified product. Ask your supermarket manager to find out for you whether their shipper is using the 8 prefix for genetically modified foods.

Or better yet, buy your produce directly from the farmer.


Nigel Tunnacliffe said...

To my knowledge, there are no genetically engineered tomatoes being sold commercially. back in the nineties there was one variety, Flavr-Savr, but it was pulled from the market.

valereee said...

Hi, Nigel! I remember the Flavr Savr. Something about using an antibiotic-resistant gene as the 'marker gene.'

Wasn't there another genetically modified tomato that's used (or was used) for making commercial tomato paste somewhere else? I'm trying to remember. But it still wouldn't be on our produce shelves marked with a PLU, at any rate.

Veggie Option said...

Thanks for the PLU information - very handy.

Regarding GM tomatoes - according to the book Agri-Food Globalization in Perspective by Bill Pritchard and David Burch, there have been eleven GM tomato products approved for sale in the US since 1992. Of these the Flavr-Savr was the "most influential."

I first heard about this tomato when I was in the UK about 10 years ago and was horrified to learn that the tomatoes we'd been buying from Sainsbury's had been genetically modified with FISH DNA. As a vegetarian, I was FURIOUS and certainly made my feelings known. Had labelling been in place I would have NEVER bought them. Now in the UK anything that's been genetically modified must be labelled as such, although animals fed with GM grain are excluded from being labelled.

Anonymous said...

This is a great observation. However, since producers aren't REQUIRED to prefix the PLU codes with "8," I suspect very few will do so. In my years of working at local Kroger stores, I never came across a PLU code that was prefixed with 8.