How to identify GM food

Written by chris miksen
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How to identify GM food
You can check the PLU code on produce to see if the product contains GM ingredients. (organic tomatoes with organic label in clear focus image by Paul Hill from

Genetically modified food, or GM food, contains ingredients that are genetically modified and do not naturally grow. While there have been no conclusive studies, there are many people who believe genetically modified food adversely affects the health of people and advise everyone to avoid GM food in retail stores. It's not easy to identify GM food, due to there being no law that states manufacturers must state whether food contains GM ingredients or not. There are a few known red flags of GM food, however.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look at the price lookup code, or PLU code, on produce. The PLU code is the string of numbers on the sticker of produce. The PLU code for conventional grown produce starts with a "4" and is a string of four numbers. The PLU code for genetically modified produce starts with an "8" and is almost always a string of five numbers, while the PLU code for organic produce starts with a "9" and is always a string of five numbers. Avoid any produce PLU codes that begin with an eight.

  2. 2

    Examine the nutrition label for "Corn," "Canola oil," "Soy," and "Cottonseed" in the "Ingredients" section. These four ingredients are almost always genetically modified.

  3. 3

    Look for "GM Free" or "100% Organic" labels on food. Nearly 75 per cent of processed food contains genetically modified ingredients. Manufacturer's know this and will want to make you aware if their food does not contain genetically modified ingredients by placing a label on their products.

Tips and warnings

  • Buy food grown by local farmers. Most food grown by local farmers does not contain genetically modified ingredients. You also have the advantage of asking the farmer in person.

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