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Moms Across America are marching today all across the great United States in support of the freedom to know what’s in their families’ food. Currently US consumers do not have the right to know, and we’ve been unwitting subjects of experiment for years, while troubling health problems have been on the rise. Thousands of moms feel it’s their patriotic duty to let you know that moms are demanding labels on genetically modified foods.
The Just Label It organization reveals that more than seven out of ten grocery store foods have been genetically modified, meaning they contain substances created in a laboratory that could have never occurred naturally. While government, industry and consumer watchdog perspectives differ on whether GMO foods are safe, the labeling movement simply asks that consumers be allowed to make an informed choice.
The states of Connecticut and Maine have been working toward toward mandatory GMO food labeling, a highly publicized labeling effort in California narrowly failed last year, and so far efforts at federal labeling have stagnated. The moms’ march is the latest in a groundswell of grassroots concern about transparency in the food system.
One question a FlourSackMama.com reader asked about labeling was whether we can’t already determine from the tag on fresh fruits and vegetables if an item is GMO. The answer, is maybe, but you can’t count on it. The tag the reader referred to was the PLU code issued by the International Federation for Produce Standards. It’s a code you can often find in grocery stores, that is used on a purely voluntary basis if a wholesaler decides to tag its food that way. For instance, you can see a 4-digit code on these conventional bananas. If they were organic, the number sequence would begin with an extra digit: a “9.”
|Conventional Produce Tag|
If the code system was used on a genetically modified food such as most corn or some squash, it could start with an extra digit before the conventional 4-digit code: an “8.” Since it’s a voluntary system, no one is required to code that produce with an “8” for GMOs. I have not found an example of a GMO-tagged fruit or vegetable to show you. Just Label It spokesperson Katey Parker told FlourSackMama.com, “The PLU system is an unreliable way to distinguish GMO foods in the grocery store.”
|Organic Produce Tag|
|More Prominent Organic Produce Seal|
Instead, I did find the code starting with “9” on a food already clearly labeled with the USDA Organic seal for organics. In this case, it’s the more prominent seal and labeling that I can notice to see that this product is not GMO, so the number on the tag is not particularly useful.
This confusing food tag tutorial brings us back to the consumer movement to label GMOs. Currently there are only two ways to know your food is not genetically modified: buy food with a verified seal like USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified only OR know your farmer/local produce stand/store manager well enough that you can trust them to tell you the origin of the food.
Learn more about the International Federation for Produce Standards at its website.