Natural Vs. Organic

Going to the grocery store these days you almost need a degree in ag-science or chemistry to understand everything that is on the label.  Today the purpose of my post is to help you understand the jargon or grocery-ese that we find on our food labels.  Even if we don’t know what every ingredient on the label is for at least my hope is that you won’t feel duped after buying a product you thought was free of genetic modification or growth with pesticides or artificial fertilizers.

In this age of fear of what the scientific community may be doing to our food and how it can affect our health, food manufacturers are always looking for ways to ease our minds with friendly looking and sounding labels.  Thankfully, they are monitored by the FDA and cannot or at least should not claim things on their labels which are absolutely not true.  With genetic modification of crops to ensure disease resistance, hardier, more robust and larger harvests  and the prevalence of corn and wheat in so many products it is difficult to find a food product which has not incorporated a GMO crop.  This is where understanding the difference between the terms “natural” and “organic” come into play.

You may assume upon seeing the term “natural” that this means it is also “organic”, but you would be incorrect.  Natural simply means that though the crop(s) used to produce the food may be genetically modified and grown with the assistance of pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers the food does not contain artificial flavors and colors and may not have artificial preservatives.  Essentially, since the main components were grown in the ground and not synthesized in a lab it can be labeled “Natural”.

Organic labeled foods are a creature of a different color.  Organic crops are grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides from seeds that have not been genetically modified.  You must also remember that since many of these crops are grown in an open pollinated field they can be cross contaminated by pollen of GMO fields.  So, though organic farmers do their best to keep their crops clean unless they are Certified Organic there is still the possibility of getting some GMO product into the food.

I wish we completely understood the implications of genetically modifying our foods.  I understand that it is a way for farmers to ensure they will have an easier time of making a living and it may at one time have been intended to make it easier for the world to feed it’s hungry since there would be an abundance.  Even with an abundance there are thousands more people every day, even in our own great country, that go hungry every day.  How are these GMO foods affecting our health? What happens if a resistant strain of fungus, bacteria or virus attacks the millions of acres of GMO corn?  Homogenizing our food supply I believe has some terrible pitfalls.  So if you have your own gardens or are dedicated to supporting and encouraging the growth of the organic foods movement then more power to you.

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