Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Myth of the GMO PLU Code

Remember this picture?  There are others like it but they all stay the same thing, that you can walk into a grocery store and pick out GMO produce by the 5 digit PLU code beginning with an 8.  I fell for it myself but after working in the produce department of an upscale grocery chain I've learned alot of things I didn't know before and squashed some things I thought I knew as fact.

PLU codes came about in the 1970's when electronic cash registers started becoming mainstream but weren't universally used until the 1990's.  It's simply a 4 digit code that helps the cashier to ring up produce faster.  All PLU codes are controlled by the Produce Marketing Association through the International Federation For Produce Standards which now has over 1,400 items in their database.  With the advent of Organic and GMO produce the IFPS added the prefix numbers of 9 for organic and 8 for GMO in order to better differentiate the items in the grocery store.1  Still with me?  Good.

Now the reality, there is no government body that mandates the use of the codes, it's entirely voluntary.  It's conceivable that grocer who only sold organic bananas could just code them as 4011 which is conventional and as for GMO produce the use of the 8 prefix is not mandatory either.  It's simply available to differentiate it from organic or conventional items of the same type.  If a grocer only sells GMO produce of that type then they would use the regular 4 digit code.

Now it just so happens that there is an example of this happening, specifically Hawaiian Papayas.  90%+ of Hawaiian Papaya is GMO, as a matter of fact it may have been one of the first GMO crops commercially available.  This was because the crop was devastated in the 1970's by Ring Virus.  By 1999 GMO papaya was being grown in Hawaii until now it is the major type grown.   On the supermarket shelf there's only one type of Hawaiian Papaya so it carries the innocuous 4 digit code of 3211 (if I remember correctly) and there is no need for the retailer to use an 8 prefix.2  Scary stuff that.  You don't really know what you're buying.  Most grocers indicated in a poll that they would NOT use the 8 prefix if at all possible because of the current backlash against GMO foods!3  As the fight against GMO continues it is becoming ever clearer that the only way to win the fight is mass rebellion against the corporations whose greed put us in the position to begin with.  As for GMO, it is nothing more than scientists run amok who think they are Gods on Earth that can toy with nature.  I have a quote from one of my favorite book series that I think sums it up nicely:

"Just because you can do a thing doesn't mean you should do a thing."
1) International Federation for Produce Standards
2) Papaya on GMO Compass
3) Food Renegade - PLU Codes Don't Indicate GMO Produce


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