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What's natural anyway?

I wouldn't have voted for Prop 37, for any number of reasons, but I do have a pet peeve about the use of the word "natural". Unless and until it is rigorously defined, I'd love to see it banned from labels and, indeed, from advertising.

The word is routinely used to reassure us, but the reassurance is phony because natural and good are hardly the same thing.

I occasionally drink decaffeinated coffee. I'm told it's better for me, but it's not the way coffee is naturally. I like to bake bread, but the flour I use is milled. I use very little salt, but when I do use salt, it is iodized to help me avoid goiter. Milk is pasteurized to avoid bacterial contamination.

But for sure, if we decide that treating GMO food is automatically not natural, by any sane reasoning we would have to also consider not natural any food with novel genes. For example, bananas have fifty percent more chromosomes than wild bananas, which is why they don't have annoying seeds. Rio Red grapefruit have been mutated using gamma rays. I see in a garden catalog that you can buy a tree which will bear three different kinds of fruit.

If we don;t know what it means, natural on a label tells us nothing.

Posted by Charles M. Rader
12 November 2012 | 23h23

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