In the words of Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser:
“If they have to put the word ‘natural’ on a box to convince you, it probably isn’t.”
But this doesn’t stop countless processed food manufacturers from boldly labeling their products as 100% natural in the hopes of appealing to health-minded shoppers like you.
After all, products labeled as “natural” or “sustainable” account for $50 billion in sales annually, or 8 percent of total retail grocery sales, and the numbers are likely growing.
When you see a supposedly “natural” product, like ConAgra’s Wesson brand vegetable oils claim to be, you would probably assume they contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which by definition are not found in nature.
But Wesson oils, specifically the Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, Corn Oil, and Best Blend, do in fact contain GMOs, prompting a class-action lawsuit over their misleading “100% natural” label claim.
Any GM Product is, by Definition, NOT Natural
The lawsuit alleges that ConAgra’s use of GM corn and soy in their cooking oils disqualifies the product as being labeled “all-natural.” The plaintiffs cite two very fitting definitions of genetic modification to prove their point, including one from biotech giant, and leading GM seed creator, Monsanto.
As Food Safety News reported:
“According to Monsanto, GMOs are: “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.” The complaint also quotes a GMO definition from the World Health Organization: “Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.”
It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit turns out, as a conviction against ConAgra could have important consequences for the manufacturers of countless other processed foods. Virtually all processed foods contain GM ingredients, unless they are certified organic, and many of them also claim to be all natural.
How do GM Food Manufacturers Get Away with Using the “All-Natural” Claim?
The natural food label on processed food has no standard definition and really no meaning at all. The term is only regulated on meat and poultry, for which an item labeled natural may not contain any artificial flavors, colors or chemical preservatives. But in the processed food arena, a “natural” product can be virtually anything — genetically modified, full of pesticides, made with corn syrup, additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients.
So if you’ve ever wondered how heavily processed foods like 7-Up, Cheetos, and potato chips can claim to be “natural,” that’s how.
The main point to remember is that as it stands, in the United States a food can be labeled 100% natural even if it contains GM ingredients. The ConAgra lawsuit is poised to change all of that, but only if the suit is successful …
Even Organic Foods May be Contaminated with GM Ingredients
The problem with GM ingredients infiltrating the food supply are two-fold. First are the manufacturers like ConAgra, who intentionally use GM corn, GM soy and other GM ingredients but “greenwash” their labels to keep it quiet. Then there is the problem of GM contamination, which is becoming progressively more difficult to control.
If you’ve followed the debate about genetically engineered crops for some time, you may remember that the USDA initially proposed that the organic rules should allow GM foods to be labeled organic. Fortunately, the public outcry stopped this atrocious proposal. In fact, it was the second largest citizen response up until that time for any proposed regulation. After several hearings around the United States, the final organic rule did not allow for GM ingredients.
However, we’re now facing significant contamination, both in the fields and during processing, and as a result it’s becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee a food will not contain any kind of GM substance. This is an industry fact that holds true for all organic retailers. Even the Non-GMO project has admitted this. The approval of GM alfalfa this year will only make matters worse, as alfalfa is a powerful pollinator.
“Contamination is an intentional strategy,” Dr. Philip Bereano, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and an engaged activist concerning GM foods, says. “It’s an intentional strategy by both the government and the industry. We have statements to that effect… Contamination in the field by pollen flow; contamination in the processing. They use the same railcars for engineered and non-engineered crops and things like that.”
Ronnie Cummins with the Organic Consumers Association also discussed this in an interview, warning that any alfalfa growing within a five mile radius of GM alfalfa will immediately become contaminated. The ramifications of this contamination are actually far worse than you might think, because alfalfa is a major food source for organic dairy cows. So once organic alfalfa becomes contaminated, organic milk and beef goes out the window too. Click here to finish reading this article…