How to spot a GMO (genetically modified organism) in the grocery store

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Are you eating Genetically Modified Foods? Do you know how to tell? I recently found out that you can easily tell whether the produce you purchase at the grocery store is a GMO just buy looking at the PLU (price look up) code.

Here are the rules:
If the PLU is 5 digits and begins with an 8, then it a Genetically Modified Organism
If the PLU is 4 digits (even if it begins with an 8) then it is not a GMO

When you purchase processed foods, you need to know that according to Wikipedia, as many as 75% of all processed foods on American shelves contain at least one GMO. As far as I can tell, there is no way to tell if a packaged item contains GMOs or not. Just another reason to skip over the middle of the grocery store as much as possible.


pish said...

Scary! I sure wish companies were forced to label products containing GMOs - it totally freaks me out to think we're buying this stuff without even realizing it. Thanks for the tip!

Susan @ organicdeals said...

Did you know that ALL organic food (as long as it has the USDA seal is GMO FREE! It is part of the rules to become certified organic. So, if you buy organic, you can be assured you are not eating GMO's :)

Soy is the biggest offender... 91% of all soy grown in the USA is GM! If you notice a lot of products contain soy lecithin, so your chances of eating it are pretty high.

You can get a list (not all inclusive though) of non-gmo processed food here:

Angela said...

Thanks for the tip Susan. I'm liking organic more and more each day. :)

Pish - I guess they'd have to label almost everything if they labeled what did contain GMOs. Scary, scary!

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

I was just talking about this today with my family. This is very scary stuff. Organic is the way to go. I just wish it wasn't so gosh darn expensive. That's one reason I wish I lived in a warmer climate, I could have a garden all year. But up here we get seasons, and I'm stuck. Thanks for the info. I'll be shopping the outside of the stores now.

Anonymous said...

This is an urban myth. There is no way to tell from the PLU whether it contains GMO or not (except maybe for papayas).
I wish people would stop propagating this terribly misleading information.

Working Mommy said...

Wow...this is great information - I learn something new every day! Just stopping by to say hi - from your newest follower!!


Richele said...

THANKS! I will be more careful of this in the future. I hate that we have tainted our food supply. Just sickens me. And sadly it may really sicken me and my family.

Angela said...

That's even scarier! I really want to know if the produce I buy is GMO. I'm assuming that pretty much all non-organic processed foods contain at least something GMO (go soy!) but now I'm extra frustrated. Thanks for sharing the info. :(

Anonymous said...

thanks SO much for posting this!!!!

Gary said...

Thanks for the tip, though I'm not sure how to use it... what's wrong with genetically modified food?

I kind of get the deal with organic food, though. I live in NYC and everyone is crazy about that stuff right now. It's just really expensive.


Anonymous said...

ALL food had been genetically modified. Do you really think nature can't do this on her own? I've seen plant cross polination, crossbreeds and animal hybrids all the time.

Geoffrey said...

Regarding the last comment, yes, nature does change foods, but splicing DNA protein of a vegetable in a laboratory is slightly different in that the structure of the protein chain does not hold up well, and tends to break down molecularly, which can lead to problems metabolizing the food. Certain GMOs are spliced with DNA that some people may be allergic to such as nuts, shellfish, soy and other things, which could cause allergic reactions to the consumer without knowing. Imagine eating a banana and having an allergic reaction to a Brazil Nut. That is why GMOs are a bad idea. Man is not as wise or patient as nature.

Renzo said...

Geoffrey: Can you point to any peer-reviewed scientific studies backing up the claim that *all* GMO foods can cause the problems you mention?

As well, is it not possible that through testing and the scientific process that we can solve these problems? Don't forget that in the last 50 years there have been many cases where something was thought to be safe(or unsafe) and then through research we discovered the opposite.

And BTW, man is a part of nature, perhaps it is nature's plan to create a species such as us that can more directly affect the evolution of life on Earth. Perhaps our use of technology is the means that nature chooses to use at this point in time.

Anonymous said...

I would like to know the source for this plu info.

Wikipedia is probably the least reliable source as entries can be changed by anyone.

Also, is a very good source for 'report cards' on organic producers/ distributors, especially since the USDA tag does not guarantee that the given product is not tainted.

whiskey pony said...

Do what you want-

but I'd much rather eat genetically modified soybeans and know there's less of the classical herbicides that are proven to be toxic hanging out in waterways. glyphosphate might not be the best thing to find in an environment, but it's certainly better than excesses of chlorine. if it means that more people get to eat, then gmo sounds fine to me.

p.s. - aren't you lucky that you have the luxury and the wealth to avoid eating these "scary" things!

Angela said...

Whoa! This is a heated topic! Almost all Americans have the luxury and wealth to stop eating "scary" food. It's all in how you prioritize your money. One less Ipod, Cable subscription, morning coffee, whatever...the money is there. The problem is knowing what's scary and what isn't.

I originally found the GMO PLU info in 2 different magazines. Maybe the system as evolved and the info is now outdated? Either way, it's gotten people fired up and talking about food and that's a good thing.

I've been reading up and am no where near knowing all I need or want to know on this topic, but if anyone is interested I highly recommend reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "Real Food". It's eye opening stuff, and that's how we should be approaching this: With eyes open. :)

Thanks for sharing all your advice, opinions and thoughts. It's good to share info and hear what others have to say.

wine production said...

It really is excellent with his instructions to detect modified foods ... thanks for the information was very good!

home for sale costa rica said...

Hi, i'm really interested in this post...I want to know more about "How to spot a GMO (genetically modified organism) in the grocery store".

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Anonymous said...

If "75% of all processed foods on American shelves contain at least one GMO" then GMO's can't be THAT harmful as most Americans are still alive...

asce said...

Grow your own food...

Anonymous said...

Hey angela thanks for the tips this is a deep subject. I'm not sure that works for sure but now I will look into it more.
Ok so I see a few posts that I cant read and pass by without saying something in reply.
first to all of you dont rely on trusting anything on the lables look it all up for yourselves, what is inside our food now.
The link that the first anonymous put up is a good link to take a look at - we will learn something on it.

Ok and yes the organic food does have to be free from pesticides and GMO it is certified by the USDA but so is another little additive they like to forget to mention its called NEOTAME it is a run off, like ASPARTAME (
Aspartame is an added suger replacement which is made from E-coli look it up very dangerour stuff causes cancer and all sorts. Well Neotame is as bad as anthrax look into this also,
here is a starter link-
It is USDA certified and they dont have to put it on the lables . Dont take my word for it i'm just putting this info out there.
now for the soy- Soy is widely grown now GMO but apart from that there is evidence now that soy causes cancer, now dont be mistaken soy sauce is not the same its all to do with the way the prepare soy sauce that makes it safe the soy that you are now getting added to a lot of produce is not prepared in the safe way and this is why its helps to cause cancer
here is a starter link for you -

and for the people that think GMO is a good thing I hope your happy not knowing cause if you were to look into this then you would be as angry as i am about the added GMO and MONSANTO and the big phama companies and the USDA

thanks Angel :)

Melissa said...

This is false. I have worked at a grocery store for three years and nearly all of our produce is GMO and nearly all of them are four numbers that begin with the number 4. The only codes for produce that are five digits long are organic. All of the produce that I have checked from other grocery stores are coded consistently the same as mine (Roche Brothers), so this myth is busted.

Anonymous said...

Most will not take the time needed to do the research, Just as most dont do their homework on politicians, They would accept being lied to then vote for the person cause he said the right thing instead of researching the facts. Most will not do this homework either

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