How do you know if a food is GM or not?
This is a question I ask myself often, and it’s only been a recent revelation for me when I discovered the tell-tale signs for determining what’s GMO and what isn’t.
The reason I wanted to avoid GMO produce in the first place was due to the lack of research and knowledge on the side effects of long-term consumption of these foods. To me, changing the genetic structure of foods to be more resilient, to keep pests away, to look better, taste better, and for all those other reasons, seems a little risky. I feel we’re messing with Mother Nature a little too much in that sense, and it’s still so early on, we aren’t able to really distinguish what the long term consequences are.
So, with this is mind, I set out in search of ways we as consumers could use to identify GMO foods, and this is what I found…
Produce Sticker Numbers:
Those little stickers that you have to pull off your fruit before eating it aren’t just there for decoration or for you to go and stick on your counter top after peeling it off. They’re actually a great tool in understanding how your produce was grown. Each fruit has a 4 or 5 digit Price Look-Up (or PLU) code that’s given based on how it was grown. Produce that has been grown conventionally has a 4-digit PLU code and generally begins with a 3 or 4. Organically grown produce has a 5-digit code and begins with a 9. Genetically modified produce has a 5-digit code as well, but the first number is an 8.
An example of this for an apple might be: for conventionally grown it would be 4015; if it was organic it would be 94015; while a genetically modified apple would be 84015.
Existing GM Crops
According to the Department of Health, the only genetically modified fresh produce grown in Australia are cotton, canola, and safflower, with some current experimental field plantings of GM banana, barley, ryegrass, mustard, sugarcane and wheat. In the past they have trialled rice, clover, maize, poppy, papaya, pineapple and grapevines.
Sources of GM Food & Ingredients
In Australia, GM whole foods such as soy, sugar beet, or maize may be used as ingredients in food, but none of these foods are actually grown here. However, some products for sale in Australia may contain imported GM ingredients, so just something to be wary of.
The main sources of GM foods here in the land down under are:
- GM soy that’s been imported: Used as an ingredient in a wide range of foods such as chocolate, potato chips, margarine, mayonnaise, biscuits and bread.
- GM corn that’s been imported: Found as an ingredient in imported foods like breakfast cereals, bread, corn chips, gravy mixes, corn oil, corn flour and corn syrup.
- GM sugar beet that’s been imported: May be used to produce sugar.
- Cottonseed oil made from GM cotton: Used in mayonnaise, salad dressings, and for frying.
Currently, there are no approved imports of fresh GM fruit or vegetables in Australia (phew! 😌).
Most produce is clearly labelled as organic or conventional these days, but this little bit of knowledge may just help you verify how your food was grown.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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Did you ever read the stickers on your fruit or veg before? Do you have any other tips on verifying whether produce is organic or GMO? Share them with us in the comments below!
Wells, Katie. (January 8, 2019). DIY Fruit and Vegetable Wash (& Preserver). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/28/fruit-vegetable-wash/
How Food Stickers Can Determine the Type of Produce You’re Holding. (March 2, 2018). Wide Open Eats. Retrieved from https://www.wideopeneats.com/tell-produce-genetically-modified/
Food – genetically modified (GM). (February 2014). Better Health Channel. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/food-genetically-modified-gm