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The ABC's (otherwise known as 4-8-9's) of your fruit and veggies

Posted Jul 09 2008 6:19am
You know that itty bitty white sticker you peel of your fruit or vegetable before eating it? We don’t think about it as an important label, but there is a wealth of information on that little tag. This tag is the way in which our Department of Agriculture categorizes our produce, according to food standards.

If the number on your sticker starts with a 4 (ex 4182) that fruit or vegetable was a "conventionally grown" item. Conventionally grown, means that the farm your food came from could have (and most likely) used some form of fertilizers, herbicides or chemicals. It is argued that some of these agents have potentially toxic repercussions (to both you and to the environment). Farmers use these products to enhance the yield of their fruits and vegetables, and to keep insects from eating their crops. The chemicals in some of these farming agents have been shown to harm our ocean and marine life, due to run-off into our water streams. Some disagree and believe that these agents are safe. I suppose it depends what types of chemicals the individual farmer is using, and how much of it. (http://www.usnews.com/articles/news/national/2008/06/06/dead-zones-grow-in-the-gulf-of-mexico.html)

If the number on your little label starts with a 9 (ex 94182), than that particular fruit or veggie is an "organically grown" item. Organic farmers do not use harmful chemicals or fertilizers to enhance their crops. They can by law, use some environmentally safe sprays both before and after harvest. These agents are less toxic and the safest for the environment and our bodies. Organic is a great choice if you want to consume the purest, most untouched fruit or vegetable available. You may notice in some cases that organic food is smaller, perhaps not as bright in color, or maybe even colorless compared to their conventionally grown neighbors. This is often because the chemicals sprayed on other categorized crops can artificially enhance their size, shape etc… Stated simply: Organic foods are in the most natural state possible with no added special effects!

*Try an at home taste test with one conventional apple and one organic apple, I found the organic fruit superior in flavor, despite the color and size of the conventional fruit, very interesting.

Last but most importantly, if your label starts with an 8 (ex 8412) that particular produce was 'built' using some genetically modified process or modified seeds (often known as hybrid and/or terminator seeds) and generally known as GMOs. I say 'built' because although it is technically grown (aka: comes out of the earth) it has a different starting point than the traditional seeds used in agriculture. Genetically modified seeds are created by using “DNA molecules from different sources, combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes, which is transferred into a new organism, giving it modified or novel genes.” (Source, Wikipedia).

GMOs are used because they seemingly produce a stronger looking crop (in size, shape, consistency) and can offer built in pesticides within the seed nucleus. The trick played on farmers, is that many seeds can not be re-cropped as they are a one time, one use product, keeping the farmer residually tied to this growing agribusiness. Genetically Modified Foods have been banned for many years in Europe and are a complex and controversial subject in our food supply. Today, the main domestic crops that are using GMOs are soy, corn, Hawaiian Papaya and cotton. (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/Home/index.cfm)

Know your A-B-C's (or 4-8-9's) of your fruit and veggies!
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