I’ve been meaning to write a post about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and why I have no problem with them for a while, but I haven’t done it because I know so many people who are anti-GMO and I’m not yet ready to step on that particular landmine. That said, I am getting increasingly alarmed at the new trend towards “natural” labeling of foods because I recognize it for what it is: greenwashing in the service of the profit motive. The lionizing of the “natural” label reveals a common logical fallacy that I have yet to write about: the naturalistic fallacy. I promise I’ll write more about it, but in summary, this is the fallacy that leads people to believe that if something is natural, it is better for them. This is absurd; it only takes a few moments of reflection to realize that a natural substance like, say, rattlesnake venom is not exactly good for you. The flip side to this is the assumption that if something has been altered by human intervention, it is bad for you. I suspect people who have survived diseases like cancer because of modern medical treatments would beg to differ.
This is a long introduction to today’s Daily Read, brought to us by Yvette d’Entremont (previously featured in this Daily Read). D’Entremont tackles the idea of natural automatically being better by discussing recent decisions by chains like Chipotle and Panera to remove certain ingredients from their foods. The article is packed with links if you want more information, but it’s a good start all by itself. The upshot here is that it is misleading to slap the “natural” label on a food, and there is no harm from leaving in the ingredients that have been demonized with the “chemical” label. The greater harm comes from fooling people into thinking that natural is automatically better – and from companies using this fallacy to promote their products as being better than they really are.