ConAgra Suit Over "All Natural" Label on GMO Cooking Oils Highlights Greenwash

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Most people know that there is nothing really natural about genetically modified organisms (GMO). Food giant ConAgra is in “hot oil” over claims that their line of cooking oils with GMO is labelled “all natural”.

Food Safety News reports that a suit filed in June in California against ConAgra could make the entire industrial food industry “shake in its boots”. The plaintiff claims he relied on Wesson oils “100% natural” label, when the products are actually made from genetically modified organisms.

The part about GMO’s not being exactly what you would call “natural” is verified by none other than Monsanto, the infamous company leading genetic food research and implementation. They define GMO’s as-

 “Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.”

This suit has led to the bigger question mark and ongoing debate over food labeling and how consumers are misled on advertisement claims. Greenwashing claims on food labels are very prevalent making it very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. GMO products are suspicious at best with no proven studies that they pose no health risks with the debate is still going strong on whether they harm human health.

Food labeling and the health-concious consumer

We have all been encouraged by healthy eating proponents that we “must” read food labels before buying and consuming foods. Now that is where the problem lies. What if the label is inadequate, incomplete, misleading and just plain wrong? Where is that leading us? The major issue here is that terms like “natural” are not regulated by the FDA.

“All natural,” which implies that the food is as close to nature as possible. In reality, the government requires that natural meats, poultry and dairy food contain only ingredients natural to the product. That means no artificial colors or preservatives. The label doesn’t address how the food was raised.

Food labeled “natural,” according to the USDA definition, does not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. However, they may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals.

Regulations are fairly lenient for foods labeled “natural.” Labels are evaluated to prevent mislabel-ing but no inspections are conducted and producers are not required to be certified.

Read this helpful guide to food labeling and certifications.

Grocery stores and supermarkets are full of GMO products

According to the Center for Food Safety:

“..upwards of 70 percent of processed foods on supermarket shelves — from soda to soup, crackers to condiments — contain genetically-engineered ingredients.”

Further there is no mandatory labeling on GMO containing products. There is a unanimous call to change this as consumers deserve to know what’s in their food. A recent MSNBC Health poll that asked the question, “Do you believe genetically modified foods should be labeled?” concluded with overwhelming public support for transparency in food labeling. There are many greenwashing claims even on voluntary GMO labeling that is incomplete and misleading.

Five major GMO products to watch out for are –soy, corn, canola, cottonseed and sugar beets. How can you avoid GMO products? A Huffington Post article provides some useful tips!

Consumers must vote with their dollars.

Food brands are taking full-advantage of the loopholes in regulation and there is very little distinguishing the real do-gooders from the impostors in the food industry. Consumers need to be extra watchful with food labeling and demand full transparency, mandatory and complete labeling. Unless labeling is complete and comprehensive, our food choices are not entirely up to us.

Michael Pollan advises on how we can all be healthier through some basic food rules!  By following these simple rules, we can not only be healthier but affect the way food is produced and marketed in the US.


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