Let’s say you’re concerned about eating foods that may poison you or lead to some debilitating or life-altering (not in a good way) illness. So you do a little research and find out that human-made chemicals cause cancer, skin problems, brain diseases, headaches and other maladies. You decide to make a serious effort to avoid as many artificial chemicals as you can, from your mouthwash to your toilet paper to your ice cream. You go to the food store and see the word ‘natural‘ on the labels and surmise that you’ve discovered an innocuous product. Think again.
Food and personal products manufacturers are using the word ‘natural’ to describe their ingredients on labels, advertising and displays. But with a little critical thinking, you’ll quickly realize that the word ‘natural’ must not mean what you thought (or hoped or assumed) it should. Worse, there are no guarantees or protective measures on the part of regulating bodies of the government, such as the FDA, to assure that what is called natural is indeed natural.
Some vitamins are called natural, but is there such a thing as a vitamin tree or vitamin bush? No, because vitamins are found in foods in their natural state. If they are alone or in isolation, such as in a pill, then they are no longer really natural. If it’s not in its natural state, how can it be called natural? How about all-natural cookies? If ingredients are grown with artificial pesticides and fertilizers, what’s natural about that? Sometimes natural products seem natural because you don’t see any chemical names listed on the label. Look closer.
Organic Consumers Association reports, “To put it bluntly, ‘natural,’ in the overwhelming majority of cases is meaningless, even though most consumers do not fully understand this. Natural, in other words, means conventional, with a green veneer. Natural products are routinely produced using pesticides, chemical fertilizer, hormones, genetic engineering, and sewage sludge. Natural or conventional products-whether produce, dairy, or canned or frozen goods are typically produced on large industrial farms or in processing plants that are highly polluting, chemical-intensive and energy-intensive. ‘Natural,’ ‘all-natural,’ and ‘sustainable,’ products in most cases are neither backed up by rules and regulations, nor a Third Party certifier.”*
While every year or so we hear some report about how some university or lab is about to turn the corner on the fight against cancer, these same groups remain oblivious (or choose to ignore) to the connection between artificial chemicals and the decline of human health. There’s plenty of literature out in the cosmos to verify this connection, which is one of the biggest reasons people have been going green, eating organic and biodynamic foods and using cleaner personal care products, paints and the like.
In The Secret History of the War on Cancer, environmental-health expert and director of the Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Devra Davis, warns that we’re ignoring dozens of cancer-causing chemicals, like asbestos, benzene, vinyl chloride, and dioxin. She writes that the chemical industry has managed to obfuscate the carcinogenic dangers of chemical and other toxic waste.** I would add to this that the media also fails to provide this kind of link in their news broadcasts.
In researching my own book, Evil Genius in the Garden of Eden, I found enough material to portray the ugly link between chemicals, corporations, disease and profit-making to make Rachel Carson’s eyes spin. If you really care about getting the lion’s share of toxic chemicals out of your life, don’t depend on the word ‘natural’ to get you there.
*Cummins, Ronnie, The Organic Monopoly and the Myth of “Natural” Foods: How Industry Giants Are Undermining the Organic Movement, Organic Consumers Association, July 8, 2009
** Davis, Devra, Chemicals, Cancer and You, npr.org, Oct 4, 07