An Explanation of the Numbered Stickers Found on Fresh Produce

Isn’t this pine straw basket beautiful! My Momma made it !

I have see a few blurbs going around Facebook concerning the little stickers with numbers that are always on the fresh veggies and fruits you buy at the grocery store or natural market.
Basically, all stickers contain either 4 or 5 numbers. A sticker containing: 
  • 4 numbers identifies the product as being “conventional”;
  • 5 numbers beginning with the number 9 identifies the product as being “organic”
  • 5 numbers beginning with the number 8 identifies the product as being “GMO”

This developed my curiosity as I never knew what those numbers meant, so I had to further investigate, my first stop was my very own kitchen. I looked at an organic yellow squash as well as an organic lemon and yep the number “9” was present (see the photos included). Well, that makes me feel good as I have often wondered about the “what if” scenario in the sense that it would be very easy for the loose produce to get mixed up in the produce bins by shoppers and employees. So now I know I’m safe as long as my sticker has 5 digits beginning with 9.
What really peaked my curiosity was the 5 digits beginning with 8; a GMO product … huummm …. considering the debate going on about labeling GMO products I found this, well, at first, very refreshing that at least at some point in the development of those PLU codes there was some consideration given to actually labeling GMO products.
In case you missed it, here are two (2) articles concerning labeling GMO products:

These articles make it clear that the labeling of GMO products doesn’t sit well with GMO manufacturers such as Monsanto so I had to research the creation of the number 8.  While I couldn’t find a clear and concise study, research paper or regulation concerning the creation of the number 8 I did find that biotechnology has been in existence since the Reagan Administration (here’s a paper from the Union of Concerned Scientists which outlines the Administration’s involvement) which would be the early 1980s and therefore came to my own conclusion that at that time the powers that be felt that GMO products would be widely accepted by the consumer and, of course, throughout time those same powers realized that the consumer wasn’t so open to the idea, therefore, rendering the number 8 useless and never used and if Monsanto has it their way it will never, ever be used. So, the likelihood of actually finding a number 8 product is highly unlikely unless legislation makes a change.
Therefore, in summary, 4 digit stickers are conventional and could also be possibility a GMO product and 5 digit stickers starting with 9 are definitely organic. I’ll stick with the 5 digits as I know this is the safest, most nutritious produce available short of growing it yourself.
I also want to share a couple of other articles I found interesting concerning the labeling of food products: 

There you have! Do you have any questions?

See you in the comments!

Mrs. R

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