We have come a long way from the day when you walked into the produce department and you only had to decide between a red or green apple. Now you step into that section and there are dozens of choices, not only in colors but also in how the produce was grown. We now have the decision of organic, conventional, or GMO produce. What’s the difference? How can you even tell? Isn’t an apple, an apple?

Not anymore. In fact, they even make apples that taste like grapes now! So what IS the difference?

What is Conventional Food?

Conventionally grown food is your standard produce currently. This means that they were sprayed with pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilizers. Think of spraying your piece of fruit with bug spray and then eating it. Not going to happen! Yet that is really what we do when we buy conventional produce.

What are Genetically Modified Organisms?

Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s are the new thing hitting the grocery store. These foods have been genetically altered. Scientist now can essentially cut and paste different genes into produce. The purpose of which is to make it resistant to pest, grow quicker, taste different, etc. It has potential but it has not been tested long term. Obviously, if you could grow fruit without pesticides and still have it turn out perfect, then it would be a wonderful thing. However, there are issues with GMO’s. First off there is the allergy issue. Since we can cut a gene from one food and paste it into another, then it can possibly transfer the allergy causing part to a new food. Thus if someone is not allergic to a normal apple, they could be allergic to a GMO apple because it might have a gene from a food they are allergic to. Talk about taking chances with your food! There is also concern that GMO’s are causing “super pests”. Much like how we, humans, are causing super bugs because of all the antibacterial products we use. So in the end run, pest might become a problem for GMO’s and a greater problem for non GMO’s. There is also the possibility of it causing problems to humans. As GMO’s have not been thoroughly tested, we cannot know for certain if we will be affected or how. However, I for one do not want to be used as a guinea pig for this test.

Organic, Conventional, and GMO - How to Tell The Difference

How do we spot the difference? Most of the time, the organic will be separated from the non-organic but sometimes things get mixed up. GMO’s don’t even have to be stated as such and therefore, you could buy one without even knowing!

The secret is this: the PLU codes! I knew there must be a reason for those silly stickers and annoying stamps!

Conventional Produce
Has a PLU code of four digits. Such as 4011.

Organic Produce 
Has a PLU code of five digits and will start with the number 9.

GMO’s
Have a PLU code of five digits but will start with an 8.

So there you have it. There is the difference between organic, conventional, and GMO’s. As well, as how to tell the difference.