When you go to your local market, do you also find yourself always looking for whatever is on sale or which item is bigger than others, so that you could get more for what you pay for? It seems like all vegetables and fruits at the store are the same in our eyes: their shapes, colors, and looks. But have you asked yourself what am I really eating and where does this item come from? Has it been injected with GMOs, grown conventionally or is it grown naturally, organically? I think we can all agree that internet provides us more transparency as we demand to know every single bit of info, especially when it comes to food and what we are putting in our mouth. So, what do all those random produce label numbers  (or better known as PLU codes) even mean?  

Zoe Zaiss


If the PLU code on a fruit or vegetable starts with 8, you should know that is has been injected with GMOs'. So, what does GMOs even mean? I'm sure you've heard that question a million times! Also, you probably have been made fun of because you were trying to explain what GMOs are. Let's start with the basics. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. According to the Non-GMO Project, GMO is a plant, animal, microorganism or other organisms whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology. Basically, this means that it has been injected with chemicals to help modify its DNA to help the produce grow in a certain way. While there are good arguments for why GMOs should or should not be used in food production, you should know what those cons and pros are. There are numerous articles written on the topic of GMOs destroying the environment, linking this process to numerous health issues. It's all up to you, whether if you agree with that statement or you don't. Personally, I have decided to stay away from products that have been genetically modified. Keep reading to know why.

Conventionally Grown

When I was growing up, I would hear about the conventionally grown fruits and vegetables all the time, not knowing what that implied.  And for the past few years, I was rather confused about the exact meaning of that. If the PLU on the produce starts with number 3 or 4, be aware that that item has been conventionally grown. Conventionally grown means that the produce is enhanced with chemicals to make it last longer, has been sprayed with pesticides so insects don't interfere with it's growing process and to help prevent diseases from crops. Check out CropLife Foundation and their theory of using pesticides on produce, it is eye-opening.


Sindy Cruz

Be on the lookout if you see the PLU starts with a 9, it states that the item has been grown organically. According to Statista, there are about 54 million people buying organic food. Produce that is grown organically means that it has NOT been treated with any harsh chemicals, nor has its DNA been modified by the wonders of the engineering. Basically, it means that the produce has been grown naturally and it is the complete opposite of what GMO-enhanced or conventionally-grown concepts entail.  Healthline states, in order to be labeled organic, a food product must be free of artificial food additives. In addition, I would suggest you go over the benefits of eating organically. Check out The Balance Small Business, and see why consumers should, at least,  consider an organic lifestyle.


Many consumers wonder if it's worth buying organic food that is typically more expensive while the produce goes bad quicker. Well, there are many reasons why organic produce is better for your health and environment, not to mention taste itself. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. Experiment with various fruits or vegetables and see the differences between the items grown these three different ways. I am sure you will notice the difference and decide what growing process fits your needs better.

I hope this information was helpful to you. If you want to know the opinion of a well-established source on the subject of random produce labels, check out this article from Forbes. The image might be just as helpful, so the next time you go out grocery shopping you are knowledgeable about reading produce labels and you know what they all mean. I also hope that this article helps you make smarter shopping decisions moving forward.