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Conventional? Organic? Genetically Modified? How to know what you are buying in the produce section

How to know if you are buying conventionally grown, organically grown or genetically modified produce. Also, what are genetically modified foods and why have you heard so much about them lately?

Genetically modified (GM) foods have been all over the news and web lately, although many people do not know what this term actually means. 

The term GM, genetically modified, foods are most commonly used to refer to crops which are grown for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology methods.  Meaning these plants or crops have been modified in a laboratory to enhance desired traits.  Some traits that are enhanced include increased resistance to herbicides, increased resistance to pests, cold tolerance, drought tolerance and/or improved nutritional content. 

The crazy part of all of this is that genes from other species, such as cold water fish are injected into the GM crops.  There’s growing concern that introducing these foreign genes into food plants may have unexpected and negative impacts on human health. 

Many countries in Europe have banned GM products and produce (including Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg).  

The most common GE crops in the United States are soybean, corn, cotton, and canola.  Due to the fact that many processed food products contain soybean or corn ingredients (e.g., high fructose corn syrup or soy protein), it is estimated that over 80 percent of processed foods in the US are genetically modified.

 So as you are walking around the produce section of your local supermarket how do you know what has been genetically modified?

  • First you need to locate the PLU code on the produce, this is usually a four or five digit number.
  • Conventionally grown produce (grown with chemical inputs) have a four number PLU code
    • So a conventionally grown banana’s PLU is 4011.
  • Organically grown produced have a five number PLU code starting with the number 9
    • So an organic banana’s PLU is 94011.
  • Genetically engineered (GM) produce have a five number PLU code starting with the number 8
    • So a GM banana’s PLU is 84011.

It is important to know how to read these labels so you know if you are buying conventional, organic or genetically modified produce!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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