When you buy produce from a supermarket, you’ll see a sticker containing a four- or five-digit number. This number is called the Price Look Up code, or PLU code. If you’re like most people, you just peel the sticker off and throw it away. But the numbers on the sticker mean a lot to your health. Since 1990, PLU codes have been assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards. They make inventory control and checkout easier, faster and more accurate.
There is a great article at blog.paleohacks.com that you should read that goes into great detail.
As Liz Lang explains, look for the number on the sticker. If the number on that sticker has only four digits and is the number 3000 -4999, that means the item was conventionally grown. Conventionally means in was grown in a traditional way according to industrial agriculture, which includes: the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers to promote growth, and chemical herbicides for weed maintenance. Make a note of this so that you remember that any number sequence on the sticker that starts with a 3 or a 4 means that there were pesticides, chemical fertilizers or chemical herbicides used to grow that produce.
Produce with the prefix 9 will have five digits so look for the number 9 tacked onto the beginning of the four-digit identifier. Any produce that starts with a 9 means the item was grown organically. Remember 9 is fine! As you may know, organic farming differs from conventional farming in a few ways: compost and manure are used instead of chemical fertilizers; insects and birds, mating disruption and/or traps are used in place of synthetic pesticides; and crop rotation, hand weeding, or mulches are used instead of synthetic herbicides. So, this gets even more complicated. JuicingforHealth offers even more details.
For instance, a 5-digit PLU code starting with the number “3” means the produce was irradiated which means it was electronically pasteurized. And this site goes on to explain that the last four digits of the PLU code are simply what kind of vegetable or fruit. An example is that all bananas are labeled with the code of 4011. Next time you buy bananas, check it out for yourself.
And, PLU code beginning with a “6” identifies pre-cut fruits and vegetables.
Now, here is where we get into GMO’s. If there are 5 digits in the PLU code, and the number starts with an “8”, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables trump being organic. So, it is impossible to eat organic produce that are grown from genetically modified seeds. For example, a genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would start with the number 8 followed by the banana code or: 84011
A sticker with more than five digits means that the number isn’t a part of the internationally standardized system. For example, if the sticker is six digits long, though it may have a label, there is no guarantee about where the item came from or what the item is.
Also, the system is voluntary and is not regulated by a government agency. But, PLU stickers are usually required by the retail industry and are used based on business needs to identify a point-of-sale (POS). For example, supermarkets and other retail grocers, say like Target, usually require the use of PLU stickers on produce.
OK so we’ve established how to identify what you are eating in fresh produce but what about packaged foods?
As of right now in the U.S., GMO foods are deemed safe. If you read between the lines, you will understand that there is a lot of lobbying that goes on in the US regarding the labeling of GMO ingredients. Other countries however have taken a hard stand. A least 19 countries in Europe ban the production of GMO produce and all 28 require GMO products to be labeled. There’s tons of research fighting for both sides, but there’s no solid scientific consensus YET on GMO safety. It’s not yet required for food producers to label GMO products in the United States, but it is a very hot topic and the decision is not yet final.
So where did GMO’s come from? It is reported that in the 1970s, Monsanto, a name you probably have heard of, began to popularize the use of genetically modified organisms to incorporate seeds containing glyphosate (aka Roundup), an herbicide, to make their crops weed resistant. On one side of the debate is the idea that genetic engineering is progress for humanity, and it is a natural extension of more traditional breeding techniques. The other side believes genetically modified foods are unsafe for human consumption and harmful to the environment.
Biotech companies claim that genetic modification yields more precise control over artificial selection. Studies funded by the industry consistently demonstrate safety, but only over the short term. For years Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other biotech based agricultural companies have told the public that we have nothing to worry about.This will be the technology that will improve food in every conceivable way.
They say, food will be more nutritious, more vigorous, and more disease resistant. There are literally thousands of studies demonstrating GMO safety. It is reported that their short-term studies are funded or performed by the industry itself. As more and more independent scientists complete long-term studies, apparently a very different picture has emerged about the safety of GMOs and their many other drawbacks. When these studies are not funded by industry, the results show an uncontrollable, uncontainable, and dangerous technology with serious health hazards.
One of the first studies to ring the alarm was a 2-year, long-term chronic toxicity Searlini study. There was a lot of backlash from the biotech industries that criticized the Searlini study stating that it did not provide substantial evidence that genetically modified food is dangerous. It is reported however that the Seralini study was actually a well-designed and well-conducted study and that If we are to accept the argument that Seralini’s study does not provide substantial evidence that genetically modified food is dangerous, then we must also conclude that the short-term toxicity studies funded by the agriculture industry (primarily Monsanto) on GM foods cannot prove that they are safe. They are in fact the same type of studies, done the same way and they even used the same type of rats. The only significant difference was the duration of the study. Seralini’s study showed how the previously 90 day studies are misleading as 90 days is not long enough to test for long term effects like organ damage, cancer, and premature death. The first tumors appeared in the rats after four months. The Searlini study was apparently able to distinguish the effects of GM food from GM food grown with allotted pesticides. The results provide strong evidence supporting the claim that genetically modified food, especially genetically modified food grown with Roundup, is highly toxic and unfit for animal or human consumption. If you want more overwhelming evidence check out the long list of studies compiled by GMO Free USA and proves the detrimental effects of GMOs.
Also, you will want to read the really comprehensive article on collective-Evolution.com that goes into great detail on the Searlini study which was apparently published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. After the research was completed, it went through rigorous reviews, as well as a four month review process by scientists and researchers. It was eventually approved and published, only to be retracted by request of the Journal. Although hundreds of scientists around the world condemned the retraction, and the researchers addressed the criticisms. After the study was retracted, there were more than a hundred notable scientists who came forward to oppose the retraction, calling it an industry retraction. Manipulation of science isn’t new. Just take a look at the recent resignation of the CDC director, as well as the 16 scientists from the CDC who came forward saying that the corporate and political influence of science has gotten out of hand. It makes you question who is charge of all this?
Collective-Evolution.com also shares a quote from Arnold Seymour Relman, who passed in 2014. Relman was a Harvard professor of medicine and former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal. He stated “The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.”
What is Glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer. Many of you probably have a bottle of Roundup in your garage and have used it to kill weeds in your landscaping. Roundup was produced for decades by Monsanto, which this year merged with the German pharmaceutical company Bayer AG. If you’ve heard about Monsanto in the news recently then you’ve heard that a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a many dying of cancer, which he says was caused by his repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers while working as a school groundskeeper. So besides its household use, Glyphosate is sprayed on hundreds of U.S. agricultural crops, and did you know it cannot be removed through washing or cooking. The FDA and USDA do not test food for glyphosate; however, independent, FDA-registered lab tests have found extremely high levels of glyphosate in some our most iconic food products. And we’ll talk about those foods in just a while.
Glyphosate is the most heavily used chemical herbicide in human agricultural history. Its use has increased 300-fold since it was introduced in 1974, particularly skyrocketing after the introduction of herbicide-resistant, Roundup Ready genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 1996. Increasingly, glyphosate is also sprayed just before harvest on wheat, barley, oats and beans that are not genetically engineered. Glyphosate kills the crop, drying it out so that it can be harvested sooner than if the plant were allowed to die naturally. Each year, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are sprayed on American crops, primarily on “Roundup-ready” corn, oats, wheat and soybeans genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide. But, it is banned on organic crops. The good news is that when organic produce is tested, it consistently comes up with far fewer pesticide residues than non-organic produce. That's why organic food is a safer choice.
Curiously enough, the EPA banned glyphosate over 30 years ago, but then mysteriously reversed its decision after studies were put out by Monsanto “proving” glyphosate’s safety. There is allegedly evidence to suggest that these studies may have been faked for the benefit of Monsanto and corporate greed over sale of their products. The records suggest that Monsanto may have ghostwritten the so-called “independent” research. The documents also imply that a senior level official at the EPA may have worked to cover up a review of the safety of the company’s glyphosate-based herbicides. It could very well be the case that many of the studies we see today regarding glyphosate’s “safety” are not reflecting true results. This is actually the case for many scientific studies that sway their results for the benefit of the researcher, and/or the companies and institutions that fund such studies.
Why Be Concerned About Glyphosate?
Glyphosate, which is patented as a chelating agent, can bind with nutrients in the soil, preventing plants from absorbing them. The chelating action may negatively affect the nutritional value of food. Glyphosate also acts as an antibiotic that can kill bacteria, and emerging scientific evidence suggests that it may lead to a harmful imbalance in bacteria in soil and in human and animal intestinal flora. Researchers also believe the herbicide may act as a hormone disruptor.
Glyphosate has been associated with a host of health issues such as kidney disease, reproductive problems, and birth defects. Exposure to glyphosate is also linked to liver damage. In a 2016 study, researchers concluded that even in “extremely low doses,” rats exposed to Roundup developed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, over a two-year period. The dose of glyphosate used in the study was thousands of times below what is permitted by regulators worldwide.
Glyphosate Labeling and the Law
The label on Roundup states that glyphosate targets an enzyme “found in plants but not in people or animals.” But studies show that the enzyme is found in people and pets, say both the Organic Consumers Association and Beyond Pesticides.
The link between glyphosate and cancer is particularly unsettling. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, declared glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen.” The decision was reached by a group of 17 reviewers from around the world and was based on evidence indicating that the popular weed killer can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer in humans; can cause cancer in animals; and can induce DNA and chromosomal damage in mammals and in human and animal cell studies.
Based on the IARC’s declaration, the state of California is taking action to require companies like Monsanto to label products that contain glyphosate with a cancer warning. More than 800 people have filed lawsuits alleging that they, or a family member, developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of exposure to Roundup.
FoodRenegade.com shares a good article on the link between roundup and gmos. This site shares that in a recent paper published in the journal Entropy, Dr. Stephanie Seneff and Anthony Samsel argue that the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, contributes to most of the diseases associated with a Western diet — everything from gastrointestinal disorders to mood swings, heart disease to diabetes. Monsanto has long argued that glyphosate is perfectly safe for humans. Monsanto says that’s because glyphosate works by disrupting the shikimate pathway in a plant’s metabolism. Human metabolism does not have the shikamate pathway, so we are safe. But are we? Did you know that you are mostly made up of microbial life? That the bacteria and microbes that live within your gut outnumber your own cells 10 to 1? Did you also know that these microbes which sustain you do have the shikimate pathway? In her paper, Dr. Seneff argues that glyphosate interrupts your gut bacteria’s metabolic pathways the same way it does a plant’s. Furthermore, it adversely affects our gut’s population of beneficial bacteria more dramatically than it does our gut’s population of pathogens. This allows the pathogens in our guts to overgrow, creating excess toxins. These excess toxins lead to inflammation. The inflammation wrecks our gut lining, creating a leaky gut. The toxins escape into our bloodstream and disrupt neural pathways leading to mood swings, auto immune diseases, and digestive disorders. It can also lead to systemic low-grade inflammation, which cutting edge research indicates as the culprit behind most chronic diseases like type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Chronic inflammation falls below the threshold of perceived pain. You don’t think you feel sick, but a fire is quietly smoldering within you, upsetting the delicate balance among all of the major systems: endocrine, central nervous, digestive, and cardiovascular/respiratory. In a healthy body, these systems communicate with each another. With chronic inflammation, that communication becomes distorted.
Medical schools reportedly don’t teach much about the inflammatory effects of food, toxic chemicals, or EMF so the medical profession has been slow to appreciate the extent of the problem. “Researchers are linking inflammation to an ever-wider array of chronic illnesses,” reported Newsweek’s Anne Underwood in 2005. “Suddenly medical puzzles seem to be fitting together, such as why hypertension puts patients at increased risk of Alzheimer’s, or why rheumatoid-arthritis sufferers have higher rates of sudden cardiac death. They’re all connected on some fundamental level.”
WANT TO SEE HOW IT’S ALL CONNECTED?
While it’s true you’re not chugging down bottles of glyphosate-containing Roundup or pouring it on your food like a condiment, you are eating plenty of glyphosate residues in your food — particularly if you’re eating foods made from Roundup Ready genetically-modified (GMO) crops like sugar beets, corn, canola oil which is made from the rape seed, and soy. Unfortunately, about 85% of the foods sold in grocery stores contain these GMOs. Glyphosate is not included in government monitoring of pesticide residues in food. The only information available about contamination of food comes from research studies. Monsanto’s studies of residues in food crops found glyphosate in lettuce over five months after treatment (the lettuce was planted four months after treatment). Monsanto also found glyphosate in barley over four months after treatment (the barley was planted one month after treatment). “Significant residues,” according to the World Health Organization, have been identified from pre-harvest use of glyphosate on wheat (to dry out the grain). Bran contains between 2 and 4 times the amount on whole grains. Residues are not lost during baking.
In other words, significant amounts of glyphosate residues are routinely found on foods — even foods, like wheat, that are not GMO. Dr. Seneff argues that these residues do have a cumulatively negative effect on the body, that the effect is “insidious” and “manifests slowly over time.”
EWG tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released its findings.
GMO Feed and Animals
So in addition to possible exposure to glyphosate in the food we eat, there is also exposure through the animals that eat GMO feed. In October 2000, that’s over 18 years ago, an Iowa farmer, noticed a problem with his hogs. During breeding, the female sows exhibited all signs of pregnancy, yet when the time came to deliver nothing happened, a phenomenon called “pseudo-pregnancy.” Over the next year, the breeding rates in the sow herd plummeted 80 percent. The problem was eventually traced back to the feed, which was genetically modified Bt corn. Laboratory tests revealed that the corn contained high levels of Fusarium, a fungal pathogen that can produce mycotoxins, which can enter the food chain and negatively affect human and animal health. This pig farmer wasn’t the only farmer with the problem. More than twenty farmers in Iowa and surrounding states reported the same breeding problems. At least five farmers switched to non-GMO corn feed and the problem disappeared. Iowa veterinarian Art Dunham, who works with dairy and beef cows and hogs, says he has seen animal health problems from GM feed since that pig farmer reported his problems. Dr. Dunham believes that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide, which is used extensively with GM soy, corn, and other crops, is a major culprit. Animal health problems related to GM feed are not limited to Iowa. In 2013, a New York State farmer had an experience similar to the pig farmer. His Yorkshire sows abruptly lost their ability to reproduce. Again, the problem was traced to mycotoxin-tainted GM feed. He then switched to non-GMO feed. In 2011, a Danish hog farmer observed that health problems in his pigs, including ailments such as bloat, ulcers, and diarrhea were common with his use of GM soy. He switched to non-GMO feed and saw immediate improvements in the health of his sow herd. Dr. Dunham explains that glyphosate alters the microbiome, which is the mixture of bacteria in the bowels necessary for health in animals and people. “Glyphosate is not just an herbicide,” he says. “It is a very broad spectrum antibiotic.”
HOW CAN YOU AVOID GLYPHOSATE RESIDUES IN YOUR FOOD?
Unfortunately, because GMOs aren’t currently labeled in the U.S., you have no way of knowing whether or not you’re eating them. Also, many non-GMO foods are treated with glyphosate or grown in fields where glyphosate was used before planting. Glyphosate has now been found in a range of popular US food products by Anresco Laboratories and also discovered in urine of people across America by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), using validated methods. Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weed-killing poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests. Some names you may be familiar with include: Cheerios, Wheaties, Trix, Annie’s, Kelloggs Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, Kashi, Special K, Cheez It, Ritz, Oreo, Triscuit, Fritos, Doritos, Lays, Goldfish, Lucy’s and the list goes on.
Concern over glyphosate in food has become a major topic the last couple years. After the EWG released their report regarding glyphosate in food, many people have become wary of the food products they were purchasing. But it isn’t just cereals and granola bars people have to worry about. According to a new study published in February of 2019, people now need to start being concerned about glyphosate in beer and wine and glyphosate has also been found in name brand orange juice. I’m sure there’s a lot more of our food contaminated that hasn’t been reported yet because the studies haven’t been started or completed. And as we continually see organic products coming up as positive for glyphosate, it makes us question – are any foods safe from this dangerous chemical?
One of the best ways of telling whether your favorite foods have been contaminated with glyphosate is by looking at crop statistics. In fact, glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used in some of the most popular foods consumed today. Wheat, soy, almonds, corn, you name it. The crops also don’t have to be deemed “Roundup ready” in order to be sprayed. Glyphosate is often used as a pre-harvest herbicide and harvest aid on cereal crops like wheat, oats and vegetable seed oils like canola and sunflower. It is also used as weed control on crops like oranges and grapes.
Back to crops sprayed with glyphosate. If you take a look at the chart from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you’ll see that barley crops are sprayed with over 600,000 pounds of glyphosate annually, and grapes are sprayed with over 1,500,000 pounds of glyphosate, annually. As you might have already connected the dots, barley is the crop used to make beer, and grapes are the crop used to make wine. With this information in mind, it is of no surprise that most wine and beer samples contain glyphosate. To explore how much Roundup the average person drinks, the U.S. PIRG tested 15 beers and 5 wines for glyphosate, the weedkiller’s active ingredient. Of the 20 samples tested, all but ONE contained glyphosate, and 3 out of 4 organic beers and wines contained glyphosate. The testing results revealed the following. Glyphosate was measured in parts per billion (ppb). Also, keep in mind that while this list is not complete, it is reasonable to assume that almost all conventional wines contain some level of glyphosate.
The highest level of glyphosate found in PIRG’s samples was 51 ppb. You might be asking – how is this allowed? Doesn’t the government protect our food from dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals? The answer is yes, they do, but the real question is why they’re allowing this chemical in our food at all. Is there really any safe limit for a chemical that is labelled as a “probable human carcinogen”?
Linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization, Glyphosate was found in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats. Almost three-fourths of those samples had glyphosate levels higher than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health with an adequate margin of safety. About one-third of 16 samples made with organically grown oats also had glyphosate, all at levels well below EWG’s health benchmark.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, reviewed extensive U.S., Canadian and Swedish epi-demio-logical studies on glyphosate’s human health effects, as well as research on laboratory animals. The IARC classified the chemical as probably carcinogenic to humans, and has steadfastly defended that decision despite ongoing attacks by Monsanto.
In 2017, California listed glyphosate in its Proposition 65 registry of chemicals known to cause cancer. The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, or OEHHA, has proposed a so-called No Significant Risk Level for glyphosate of 1.1 milligrams per day for an average adult of about 154 pounds. That level of exposure is more than 60 times lower than the safety level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
To reach this maximum dose, one would only have to eat a single 60-gram serving of food with a glyphosate level of 160 parts per billion, or ppb. The majority of samples of conventional oat products from EWG’s study exceeded 160ppb, meaning that a single serving of those products would exceed EWG’s health benchmark. As part of a glyphosate risk assessment, the EPA estimated potential highest dietary exposure levels for children and adults. The EPA has calculated that 1-to-2-year-old children are likely to have the highest exposure, at a level twice greater than California’s No Significant Risk Level and 230 times EWG’s health benchmark.
Studies suggest that glyphosate-sprayed crops such as wheat and oats are a major contributor to glyphosate in the daily diet. In EWG lab tests, 31 of 45 samples made with conventionally grown oats had 160 ppb or more of glyphosate.
In one Statement of Concern, published in the journal Environmental Toxicology in 2016, the authors noted that:
Products containing glyphosate contaminate drinking water sources, precipitation, and air, especially in agricultural regions.
The half-life of glyphosate in water and soil is longer than previously recognized.
Glyphosate and its metabolites are widely present in the global soybean supply.
Human exposures to glyphosate-based herbicides are rising.
Glyphosate is now authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen.
Regulatory estimates of tolerable daily intakes for glyphosate in the United States and European Union are based on outdated science.
It isn’t just glyphosate that’s the problem. In fact, it is often the case that the adjuvants added to glyphosate-based herbicides are more toxic, and more harmful, than glyphosate itself. Just to clarify, an adjuvant is: a substance that is co-injected with antigen in order to help stimulate and enhance the adaptive immune system into producing antibodies against the antigen. It is problematic, given that not many people talk about the other chemicals involved in these different herbicides and pesticides.
Two studies determined that herbicides like Roundup, were more likely to cause cell-cycle dys-regulation, a hallmark of cancer, than glyphosate alone. Not only that, but a study published in 2009 showed that some formulations of Roundup were more toxic to human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells than glyphosate by itself. The researchers have always taken a strong stance against glyphosate-based herbicides, highlighting the dangers of herbicide adjuvants. In a 2018 article published in the Daily Mirror, Gunatilake noted that adjuvants added to glyphosate-based herbicides “are 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate itself.