A couple of days ago I posted a photo on my IG stories that brought awareness to how essential it is to learn what the PLU code (sticker number on produce) means. What number means organic, conventional or GMO and what's the difference? After posting, I received hundreds of DM's like "Omg thats crazy. I didn't know this!" and "OMG thank you for posting this" and "I never knew the numbers had deeper meaning!". I realized, not a lot people were aware of this. Back in 2013 when I first started switching my lifestyle, I learned to always look for #9 being the first number on the 5 digit PLU code because, that number assures me it's farmed from an organic source. Why did it take me so long to share this simple detail with others? I don't know. Maybe I assumed most people knew this already... That's why I chose to write this detailed blog post on the subject of Organic VS Conventional - The difference and why its important to know.
• 5 digit PLU code starting with #3xxxx is also from conventional farming (meaning contains pesticides) except this produce number is electronically pasteurized. Pasteurizing produce isn't a good thing because the process of pasteurization can kill the natural nutrition from vitamins that allows us to benefit from eating fruits and vegetables.
• 4 digit PLU code starting with #6xxx is also from conventional farming (due to my research) except this code isn’t recognized as part of the internationally standardized list of PLU codes for use with fresh produce because the #6 is identified towards pre-cut or pre-treated produce. Meaning this produce was opened, cut, or treated to be boxed for sale. Like when you’re buying chopped watermelon, stored in plastic containers from the refrigerated produce section.
I'll try to keep this short without leaving out crucial details.
In a nutshell, when you're shopping for the lowest priced produce (because you think you're saving money) you're actually buying produce sprayed with pesticides, glyphosate (weed killer) and grown unnaturally from GMO (genetically modified organisms) which means the farmer used GMO seeds (aka fake seeds created in a lab). Is it worth sacrificing your health to save $1 or $2 that could've been used as an investment to your health instead of your sickness?
“The food you eat can be the safest, most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
― Ann Wigmore
WARNING: Even if you already shop organic, you're still likely to make the mistake of following the organic signs above fruits/vegetables that reads for example; "Organic Plums" and ignore the sticker numbers on the fruit you're about to take home. There's been times where I'm picking up plums or oranges from a pile with an organic sign above, and later as I'm checking out or when I get home, I realize 1-2 of my plums have a PLU sticker that says #4xxx instead of #9xxxx. See where I'm going here? DON'T JUST FOLLOW THE ORGANIC SIGNS. Maybe the employees placed some conventional items in the wrong pile by mistake or maybe a shopper changed their mind and quickly placed it in the first plum pile they saw. It happens. CHECK YOUR THE NUMBERS.
THE DIRTY DOZEN & CLEAN 15:
I prefer buying ALL of my produce organic, no matter what. So I don't technically apply the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 method when we're doing our weekly shopping. But this can be helpful in emergency cases or if for any reason it's not possible for you to access organic produce while you're on vacation or something like that...
Dirty Dozen is a list of 12 fruits/vegetables that are at higher risk of pesticides absorption. The list is numbered from highest risk to lowest risk. 1st item (strawberries) is listed as the highest danger of pesticides. But all produce on this list should ALWAYS BE ORGANIC.
The Clean 15 is a list of fruits/vegetables that absorb lower amounts and/or less likely to absorb pesticides even when they’ve been sprayed. (I believe it's due to these fruits/veg having a protective skin/shell) But this doesn't mean they don't absorb any pesticides at all, it simply absorbs less pesticides making conventional produce from this list safer to buy and eat according to EWG (Environmental Working Group).
Keep in mind: Although this list is safer due to less pesticides, it can still be grown from a GMO.
Dirty Dozen should ALWAYS be organic
Clean 15 is safe to buy conventional due to lower pesticide absorption but can still be a GMO.
I completely understand how some people don't know the difference between organic farming and conventional farming. For those of us that grew up in city areas, it's common to not know what the word conventional even means but even so, conventional farming is normalized and often not questioned. I use to assume organic was just a word to charge more money. I didn't know the difference in the amount of labor, distribution and ethical standards organic farming consist of. I also didn't know the definition of the word organic until I looked it as an adult.
I grew up seeing my mother shop for the lowest prices on food and she sent me to the store aiming for the low prices. She didn't know that cheap prices on food comes with a side of toxic. It's not like there's a warning label about this, right?... So she thought, oh great! I can buy a so much of this because it's so cheap in this store. Unfortunately living in a lower income area also means our local grocery stores ONLY PROVIDE CONVENTIONAL PRODUCE. Why? Because it's cheaper and more people in these areas will prefer buying lower priced items even if they're given the option of organic and conventional. The store owner would be risking losing money on not enough people buying the produce that's $1-$2 more. I know this from experience as a Hispanic growing up in Harlem NY, and as the daughter of a former Bodega (grocery store) owner in the Bronx, where I use to work as a teen and often went with my father to the whole-sale produce market where he purchased all the produce sold at his bodega. My father didn't know the difference either, he looked for the best looking produce, at the lowest price available. My father migrated to America from Dominican Republic and he comes from a family of farmers, but tradition often goes out the window when you're in the American hustle mode. He didn't use the word organic back in his farming days, to him that was just normal farming. In NYC, he wasn't growing the crops himself before selling them. He was buying it elsewhere, without seeing the farming process, and assumed all farming is equal. His mindset was on maintaining a successful business not ethical standards.
⚠️ The Dangers of Pesticides & Glyphosate:
The photo above shows workers spraying pesticides and/or glyphosate with their skin covered and mask on their faces to protect themselves. How ironic is it that this is sprayed on food meant to be eaten by humans and animals. If the men spraying can't touch or breathe this toxic chemical, why is it ok for everyone else to eat it despite being contaminated?
Approximately 1.1Billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed each year in the United States resulting in at least 10-20,000 cases of diagnosed workers. A new study suggests that pesticides are more dangerous to cells than current safety testing reveals. A team of French scientists have concluded that the studies done were focused solely on the active ingredients of commercially sold pesticides which underestimates the hazards of the pesticides used all around the United states on school grounds, public playgrounds, sport yards, gulf courses, gardens, farms etc...
More than 250 million pounds of glyphosate, (a pesticide linked to cancer) is dumped on American farmland each year!
Roundup, is a commercial herbicide/weed killer sold by Monsanto that uses the active ingredient glyphosate. Glyphosate is by far the most toxic of the herbicides/insecticides tested (published in the journal BioMed Research International). It's used to kill weeds on lawns, gardens and crops on farms. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. In 2018, EWG tests revealed shockingly high levels of glyphosate in oat-based cereals like cheerios and quaker oats. Despite the evidence that this cancer-linked chemical is contaminating our food, glyphosate is exempt from government pesticide-residue testing programs. INSANE? I KNOW!
There wasn't enough media coverage on main stream news about the Monsanto/Glyphosate verdict but the court was in favor of Dewayne Johnson, the first person to take Monsanto to trial. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 Million as jury ruled their weed killer caused Mr. Johnson's cancer. Sadly Dewayne Johnson won't live to benefit from this money and I'm sure his family would prefer he live a long life rather than gain money out of his suffering death. At least this story made some BIG headlines on CNN, Fox, and other news outlets, because for the first time ever it reached the eyes of many unaware Americans. The issue is, the news isn't warning us everyday to be aware of this. It's up to us to take that one-time notice seriously and apply it to our lives. Just because it's not being reported on by the news day by day or weekly, it doesn't mean we should forget about this and continue life as if this was never an issue. Monsanto is currently facing over 13,000 plaintiff's accusing of cancer causation also. Monsanto was just recently ordered to pay Edwin Hardeman $80 Million and $2Million to another couple who used their commercial roundup on their home property.
Soon after the first trial, companies like General Mills, Baby formula/cereals brands and many others were tested and found to contain traces of glyphosate in their products. May I remind you, most of these products are marketed for children's attention. The first 21 products that were tested are made by General Mills, including six varieties of Cheerios and 14 of General Mills Nature Valley products. EWG also tested many brands and published their findings on baby foods and cereals positive for roundup/glyphosate traces. And guess what? These brands are still sold in stores despite the evidence. That's how powerful marketing is and how little control our system has regulated on what's considered safe. Sometimes companies and corporations can be MORE powerful than government.
Right now, glyphosate is excluded from routine pesticide monitoring that should be conducted by the USDA. It would be helpful if the USDA and EPA immediately begin testing our food for glyphosate and take steps to protect us from glyphosate contamination.The pesticide industry and Monsanto have already began making false claims with strategies to convince the public that glyphosate is safe despite all the court trials they lost and evidence shown through testing.
If you want to show your support in convincing Washington to do the right thing, fill out this short form on EWG (by clicking here) to demand that the USDA and EPA start protecting Americans from glyphosate. We have the right to know if we're eating and feeding our children Monsanto's cancer causing weed killer!
I hope you found this helpful :)