New Campaign Debunks Misleading 'Natural' Labels, Highlights Organics Benefits
A public education campaign was launched this week to highlight the benefits of organic food and to help consumers understand the difference between products labeled organic and those that are labeled as “natural.”
“Foods made with the use of toxic persistent pesticides and even genetically engineered (GE) ingredients are being labeled as natural,” said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm. “Only organic guarantees that food is produced without the use of toxic persistent pesticides, hormones, antibiotics or genetically engineered ingredients. Only organic gives you complete piece of mind.”
The public education campaign will include videos to help consumers understand the how the “natural” label can be used to confuse shoppers. The videos were developed by the recently launched agency Humanaut with help from advertising icon Alex Bogusky.
Organic foods are subject to stringent environment and animal welfare standards enforced by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA discourage companies from including “natural” claims on processed foods containing synthetic or artificial ingredients, there is no official definition of “natural” and little enforcement of misleading claims.
“Only organic is produced in a way that Mother Nature would recognize as natural,” said Sarah Bird, chief marketing officer for Annie’s, Inc. “Many products that claim to be 'natural' are made with ingredients you couldn’t find in nature—including artificial flavors or colors, synthetic preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered ingredients."
Natural claims have been added to everything from cooking oils made from genetically engineered crops to ice cream made from cows pumped full of growth hormones.
“Many consumers mistakenly believe that foods labeled as ‘natural’ are better than food that has been certified as organic,” said Lewis Goldstein, vice president of brand marketing at Organic Valley. “Organic food starts with organic farming, from the ground up. Only organic is subject to tough, enforceable standards created by the USDA designed to insure that our families can count on their food being produced in ways that protect their health, the environment and the welfare of farm animals.”
The public education campaign is being launched by Organic Voices, and is supported by organic companies and other companies, including AllergyKids, Annie’s, Earthbound, Happy Family, INFRA, Late July, Nature’s Path, NCGA, Organic Valley, Rudi’s, and Stonyfield.
“Many products carry the ‘natural’ claim when there is nothing natural about them,” said Darren Mahaffy, vice president of marketing at Nature’s Path Foods. "As a result, many consumers are buying products they think are the same—or even better—for their families and the environment than organic.”
A recent survey found that consumers commonly believe that “natural” foods do not contain artificial ingredients.
“The public needs new tools to understand the benefits of organic and to be able to distinguish between organic foods and all other unverified claims,” said Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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