Unless you buy all your fruits and vegetables from a farmer, farm stand, or farmer’s market you likely encounter those pesky little produce stickers. They are so ubiquitous that often I don’t even notice them (can you say onions?), that is, until I toss them in the scrap bucket. Then I start peeling and tossing them in the trash. I’m guessing the adhesive is not toxic, but it’s definitely not something I want gumming up my beautifully rotting compost!
While we are on the subject of stickers, do you know how to read them? Produce stickers have a four or five digit code and those numbers mean something if you know how to decipher them.
- Stickers with a 4-digit code mean the produce was conventionally grown, but not organic.
- Stickers with a 5-digit code beginning with a 9 mean the produce was organically grown.
- Stickers with a 5-digit code beginning with an 8 means the produce was genetically modified.
So, my bananas were organically grown in Ecuador.
With all the conversation about GMO’s this sticker identification is a great tool, right? In theory, yes, but these stickers, administered by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS) are strictly optional. They were intended to help suppliers and buyers, not the retail customer. Of course retailers know this and use the GMO stickers accordingly, sometimes leaving them off in order to promote sales. When was the last time you saw a sticker on an ear of corn?
Be vigilant if you are looking to avoid GMO products and look for 100% organically grown labels. Remember to buy in season and if you can, buy from the farm, the farm stand, or farmer’s market…or better still, grow your own, fertilized by your own compost of course!
For more on produce stickers check out http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/produce.asp#JpG7xUD3evYdheOj.99