Those stickers on fruit and vegetables show the produce PLU – Price Look Up Code, used in grocery stores and supermarkets to make check-out and inventory control easier and more accurate.
In most cases, the code is a four-digit number, beginning with a “3” or a “4“, which identifies the type of bulk produce, including the variety. In this case, the produce is conventionally grown, i.e. produced with chemical fertilizers, herbicides or fungicides.
PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with a “9” are applied to produce that was raised organically and therefore was not treated with any chemicals.
PLU stickers that have 5-digits and start with “8” may be applied to produce that was genetically modified (GMO). Please note that this labelling is currently not mandatory in North America and it’s made only on a volontary basis.
In other words, using this numbering system, a conventionally grown banana would be 4011, an organic banana would be 94011, and a genetically engineered banana would be 84011. Interesting isn’t it?
So, the next time you pick up that kiwi, melon, apple or banana, check out the numbering system. Is it conventionally or organically grown? Or, is it a result of genetic engineering? It’s all in the number.
Note: the adhesive used to stick the PLU onto the fruit is edible but the sticker itself is not.
To learn more about GMO foods, please consult the Greenpeace website.
A fellow reader suggested checking out the Non-GMO Shopping Guide to find out more about how to avoid GMO products.