The label “natural” is one of the least regulated descriptors in the U.S. marketplace, and major agribusiness companies are using that to their advantage. In the latest report issued by the consumer watchdog group, The Cornucopia Institute, we learn that they’ve routinely filled boxes of cereal goods with GMO-riddled, chemically-laden foods and slapped the label “natural” on them so that we’ll feel better about buying them. From Kellogg’s to Whole Foods, it seems no major label is exempt from this practice.
From the Cornucopia Institute’s press release:
Cereal Crimes details how prominent agribusinesses are increasingly using various strategies to create the illusion of equivalence between the “natural” and organic labels to mislead consumers.
“Some companies that started out organic, and built brand loyalty as organic brands, have switched to non-organic ingredients and “natural” labeling,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, Director of Farm and Food Policy at Cornucopia.
One such brand, Peace Cereal® is an example of what Cornucopia calls “bait-and-switch.” In 2008, the Peace Cereal® brand switched from organic to cheaper conventional ingredients, without lowering its prices. Today, the cereal is sold in natural food stores and mainstream grocers at prices above many of their certified organic competitors that are using more expensive organic ingredients.
Although the prices may be similar, in reality, there is a vast difference between organic and “natural” products from grain produced with the use of toxic pesticides. In some cases, companies charge high prices for “natural” products that even contain genetically engineered crops developed by St. Louis-based Monsanto.
Pesticides that are strictly prohibited in organics are commonly used to produce ingredients for “natural” products. For example, organophosphate pesticides were developed from World War II-era nerve gas and are designed to be toxic to the neurological systems of target organisms. They are deadly to insects but also have been proven damaging to humans—with fetuses and children especially at risk.
The Cornucopia Institute has even released a nifty little video exposing the problem.
As for myself, I put very little faith in labels, even “organic” ones. While the organic label protects against some things, like synthetic pesticides and GMOs, it doesn’t protect against the unethical behavior of giant agribusinesses. Nor does it protect against unhealthy foods like denatured, extruded cereal grains (see here for How To Eat Grains).
Rather, I put my faith in people. Farmers. Families. Heroes. People who have shown us with their practices that they tend their land and animals with the utmost respect for life. I trust their integrity as individuals far more than I trust the behemoth organizations that tend to line supermarket shelves with marginally acceptable food.
It is because I hold these farmers in such high esteem that I’ve chosen to donate $5 of each sale of my new Beautiful Babies e-course to both the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Weston A Price Foundation. If you’re at all curious to know how these organizations work tirelessly to support farmers and consumers, please visit the Beautiful Babies e-course FAQ page.
How about you? Is there a label or brand that you have grown to trust completely? Or do you, like me, trust people first and foremost?
(photo by shallowend)