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GMO Labeling: Is it as Easy as Reading a PLU Bar Code?

PLU stickers with the number 4130 identifying ...

As I am sure you have noticed, I’ve been writing a lot about California’s Proposition 37 that would mandate GMO labeling.  Many products may already labeled, if you know where to look.

You know those scary bar codes on the side of everything used by merchants to scan in prices.  These Price Look Up (PLU) codes provide valuable information to consumers.  WebMd explains how you can use this information to avoid GE food:

Read the PLU labels. If the five digit PLU number starts with “8,” the food is either genetically modified or genetically engineered.  If the five digit PLU number starts with “9,” it’s organic. Also, by watching for the absence of either the 8 or 9, which means the produce is neither organically grown or genetically modified, you can recognize traditionally grown produce. Ensure your produce is not genetically modified by reading the number on the sticker, and by buying 100% certified organic.100% certified organic food is by law never genetically modified!

  • A 4-digit number indicates the food was conventionally grown and may or may not be genetically modified.
  • A 5-digit number beginning with an 8 is a genetically modified food. However, not all GM foods can be identified because PLU labeling is optional.
  • A 5-digit number beginning with a 9 indicates it is organic, and thus a non-GM food.

You can search any PLU code on the Produce Marketing Associations website, however, the optional nature means you cannot rely on PLU codes to distinguish genetically altered food.

Snopes.com explains:

Consumers should be aware, however, that PLU codes are an option which is used for the convenience of suppliers and grocers and not customers, so not all produce (particularly genetically modified varieties) are so labeled, and other sources of information may be better for distinguishing the differences between various forms of produce.

We do need GMO labeling, since rarely is the number 8 used in PLU codes.  Until labeling occurs, sticking to organic produced labeled with a 9 will help you avoid it.


  1. The PLU info is incorrect. As noted above, the labeling is optional. When it comes to GMOs, retailers have chosen the option of no label. The 5-difit number starting with an 8 was developed so retailers could differentiate GMOs. This whole GMO labeling debate has grown out of retailers avoiding any type of label indicating GMOs. Look for something specifically labeled “organic” – you won’t have to worry about them hiding the fact an item is organic in some numbered code.

    • Please view the Gary Null video, “Seeds of Death” (free on Youtube), and you will find that “Organic” may not be, as more crops are being corrupted by GMO laced pollen from as far as 200 miles away. President Obama is going with the GMO flow by placing ex-Monsanto VP Taylor in charge of the FDA and protecting Monsanto’s right to poison the U.S. population with GMOs. It is time for Americans to call foul to our representatives.

  2. I am a campaign volunteer for proposition 37 in California.
    Thank you for helping to put out the word.


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