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Thread: GMO Shmo - Natural cereal isn't so natural...

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004

    GMO Shmo - Natural cereal isn't so natural...

    Interesting study I just found:

    No federal law or regulations exist regarding "natural" labeling of foods, such as breakfast cereal.
    ...
    One Kashi product in particular, GoLean® Shakes, is composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, according to the plaintiff
    ...
    In advertisements, some companies tout their brand’s organic products without mentioning that many of their products are not certiied organic
    ...
    ... "natural" products—using conventional ingredients—are often priced higher than equivalent organic products, suggesting that some companies are taking advantage of consumer confusion regarding the difference between the meaningless natural label and certified organic claims.
    And of course the typical "reasons why non-organic is bad:"

    Studies suggest that genetically engineered corn damaged the intestines and peripheral immune systems of lab animals
    ...
    The USDA found residues of [the pesticide] chlorpyrifos on 17.8% of corn grain samples and 14.5% of soy grain samples
    ...
    Quaker Oats® states that it is an “all-natural” product ... manages a processing plant that emits roughly 19,000 pounds of sulfuryl fluoride yearly ... a toxic greenhouse gas used to treat crops like oats in storage.
    Some of the brands that tout naturanless in spite of being quite terrible include Back to Nature, Bear Naked, Peace Cereal, Kashi or 365.

    Now, I already knew the US food industry is all about maximizing profit with no concern for health or environment, but learning this just really ticked me off. They're not merely trying to suppress information or encourage favorable studies - they are downright lying to the public right on the box of their products, WHILE having the nerve to charge more for an inferior product. This is like a whole knew evil exploitative level of capitalism right here. How this shit is even remotely allowed by the FDA is beyond me.

    Yes I totally was one of the gullible fools who assumed that "natural = organic." While I only buy organic/natural very occasionally, I still feel really damn cheated. And this begs the question - if "natural" is all BS, how can we be sure that "organic" really is as organic as it claims? After all, the milk industry has done a great job of skirting around the federal regulations and getting certification when it clearly shouldn't have.

    EDIT: tho, the more I've been reading about "organic" food the more I am starting considering buying into it. yes the effects of GMO/pesticides/etc. are still heavily debated, but logic and hunches point that they probably aren't the best for you
    Last edited by Yakoob; 23rd Aug 2012 at 02:33.

  2. #2
    Cuddly little misanthropic hate machine
    Registered: Aug 2004
    Location: someplace better than this
    Grocery store health food is by and large a fucking sham. This nation's obsession with weight and eating healthy provided an easy market for the industry to peddle trash on easily-swayed consumers looking to shed some pounds but without the time or inclination to do it the hard way. You want healthy food, you gotta grow it yourself or get it from a small local grower.

  3. #3
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    "Natural" and "Unnatural" are among the most prone to abuse terms in law. It allows people to offload any conspiracy they want into a food or product just because it "feels unnatural to me" ... It's "GMO", "has chemicals", "is Mexican", "is Chinese"... But often there's no independent justification for it aside from the foreignness. It's just built off hysteria.

    As for those "studies", (1) immunity markers have never been used in marketed GMOs, not in forever anyway, and they stopped the practice (edit: for foods) decades ago, (2) the infamous study that showed intestine damage used incredibly irresponsible science to basically induce the intestine damage in the lab animals to grab the headline. It's been hoisted as a poster child for "bad science" so many times in the scientific community that it ... hasn't stopped it from still being quoted all the time by activists anyway.

    The FDA is quite right to not regulate for "unnatural" things, since there is only one typical purpose for the term: to make people feel nauseous about a new and foreign product by virtue of the newness and foreignness alone. If there were an actual ascertainable risk, they could just regulate for that directly. If there actually were a valid scientific study that said, hey, these pesticide-producing GMOs have intestine-eating toxins in them. Boom, toxin -> banned. (Edit: I won't speak for the other additives in foods you mentioned though. Some are better than others.)

    Of course the non-scientific population doesn't always care what the science says, only what a headline says and they let their imagination fill in the blanks. This is how all conspiracies work. They look for the "blank" and fill it in with the conspiracy. This is why the FDA is run by scientists and not by popular vote. For decades people thought microwaved food gave us cancer because it was new, invisible, and of course you can always find holes in science, and that gave them a "blank", and it took a long time for it to get normalized. (Edit: And companies know this, so they would use terms like "unnatural" to demonize their competition if the FDA gave them that hook. That's another reason why I think the FDA doesn't even want to give people the hook to think foods are risky without some justification. The link between "unnatural" to "unhealthy" is just too tight & misleading in people's perception.)

    Edit: This is different from the debate on "organic", which has a very clear, justifiable, and enforceable standard, and the FDA & USDA does regulate for that. If an organic farm gets cross-pollinated from a GMO farm so they lose their organic status, then they have a great claim to sue the GMO farmer for not preventing gene flow. That's one of the few legitimate GMO claims you can find in US practice.

    This is also different from marketers exploiting consumers into buying unhealthy food. I have no doubt they used focus groups to pick out terms like "natural", "light", etc, to build a case for a product looking like edible-panacea, but it's actually a very unhealthy food, and that *is* a swarmy practice. I'd agree. The reason the FDA might not get involved is, as long as a product is safe for consumption and not outright fraudulent in a "material claim" (the legal standard), it doesn't want to be too paternalistic in policing what people want to eat for themselves. Consumers are grown-ups. They should know marketers exaggerate & you always take what they say with a grain of salt. Anyway it's not the government's place to tell people they can't be junk-food-eating oafs or to censor labels because companies only want money and will say anything (as long as it's just obvious "puffery"). There's a good case that it's the parents place to tell their kids to look out for that though. I don't want my kids eating just anything. I'm not worried about risk, but them feeling as healthy as they reasonably can, have an apple instead of ice cream sometimes...

    Edit: I said other stuff but getting long so I just put it here if anyone is curious.
    Last edited by demagogue; 23rd Aug 2012 at 04:51.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Quote Originally Posted by Yakoob View Post
    Now, I already knew the US food industry is all about maximizing profit with no concern for health or environment, but learning this just really ticked me off. They're not merely trying to suppress information or encourage favorable studies - they are downright lying to the public right on the box of their products, WHILE having the nerve to charge more for an inferior product. This is like a whole knew evil exploitative level of capitalism right here. How this shit is even remotely allowed by the FDA is beyond me.
    I'd call that preying on people's ignorance, not lying. You simply assumed the word "natural" on the box meant something it didn't. Lesson learned.

    Yes I totally was one of the gullible fools who assumed that "natural = organic." While I only buy organic/natural very occasionally, I still feel really damn cheated. And this begs the question - if "natural" is all BS, how can we be sure that "organic" really is as organic as it claims?
    Organic is a well defined, regulated term. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Organic_Program

    There are exceptions to the definition, e.g. 38 Non-Organic Ingredients Found in 'USDA Organic' Foods. But these are documented by the USDA, so if you do your research you'll know what you're getting.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Mar 1999
    Location: I can't find myself
    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    Edit: This is different from the debate on "organic", which has a very clear, justifiable, and enforceable standard, and the FDA & USDA does regulate for that. If an organic farm gets cross-pollinated from a GMO farm so they lose their organic status, then they have a great claim to sue the GMO farmer for not preventing gene flow. That's one of the few legitimate GMO claims you can find in US practice.
    They can do that? I was only aware of the cases that went the other way, where the farmers' crop was contaminated by the GMO pollen, and the patent holder of the modified crop sued the independents into oblivion for growing and selling their crop without paying royalties.

  6. #6
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    They can do it if they had organic status and the GMO gene flow lost them the status, so they had all the sunk costs of trying to be organic & can't sell for a premium now. You have all the elements of a tort -- duty, breach, cause, & harm.

    As for the case you mention, I'm not sure there's much of an actual claim if it was inadvertent gene flow (unless they just scare the guy with a lawsuit and try to settle it? not sure.) But I've definitely heard cases where farmers try to sell 2nd generation crops (from the seeds from the 1st generation) without paying royalties, and the makers wanting to to clamp down on that and sue for royalties. Also infamously they debated sunset seeds that would be inert for 2nd generation to force farmers to buy new seeds, but IIRC they didn't market them because of the expected backlash (a few years ago at least). But yeah, that's another issue. The whole thing with patenting DNA generally is a dodgy issue, legally and policy-wise.

  7. #7
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Everything Demagogue said.

    It's like the "natural" remedies business, which tries to draw an artificial line between "natural remedies" (read: herbs purported to contain a therapeutic compound, but delivered in non-controlled amounts due to natural variation, plus also containing other useless or potentially harmful compounds) vs. "synthetic" medicines (read: purified molecules which exert a therapeutic effect).

    The public has an emotionally biased knee-jerk response to what is deemed "natural" or "synthetic" but really, all that matters is how it affects the body, since the primary purpose of digestion is to reduce complex foods down to the base constituents in order to metabolically process them.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2003
    Location: On my bicycle \o/
    I'd call that preying on people's ignorance, not lying.
    Isn't that what lying is.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    No, because no claim was being made. Putting the word natural on the box doesn't actually mean anything.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2002
    Location: Girl with the Patreon Tattoo
    What's the point of arguing semantics anyway. They're taking advantage on purpose of the general stupidity / ignorance of people to make more money. The only effective difference with lying is that it's not admissible in court.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Oct 1999
    Location: Australia
    Slightly disagree with demagogue here, because people really SHOULD be afraid of the produce that gets shipped out of China. There may be little difference between American and Chinese practices though, I'm not sure

  12. #12
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    You should probably try to justify that a little, else it is just going to appear xenophobic.

  13. #13
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Yes people should be afraid of things like lead in toys, and China has a bad reputation for things like that. But if China brought a WTO case against the US for restricting them, the US would have to show some study somewhere verifying it or they'd win the case and it'd cost the US a lot. I mean you probably want border controls for lead coming from anywhere... Heaven forbid some Swedish company had a lapse and something got through because customs didn't have them on their radar.

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Quote Originally Posted by Briareos H View Post
    What's the point of arguing semantics anyway. They're taking advantage on purpose of the general stupidity / ignorance of people to make more money. The only effective difference with lying is that it's not admissible in court.
    It's not semantics. It's about recognizing the difference between meaningless advertising buzzwords (all natural) and terms with a defined meaning whose usage is regulated (organic). Advertising is all about selling people on an image, linking the product to a persons' values or desires, taking advantage of what they they presume or wish to be true. When Tony the Tiger says Frosties will bring out the tiger in you, you don't literally think that eating the cereal will bring out tiger like qualities in people. Saying the cereal is wholesome or natural is no different except you're trying to appeal to people who desire a different image. As a consumer, if you're looking for specific qualities in the products you buy, you need to know how to identify those qualities. You can't just assume it's going to have the qualities you want just because the packaging has favorable images, slogans, or ad words.

    Another example: "good source of fiber". I see this on practically half of all cereal boxes now. All it really means is that there is some fiber in the product. How much? Who knows, check the nutrition information on the side of the box if you actually care about fiber.
    Last edited by heywood; 23rd Aug 2012 at 07:59.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2004
    Location: Mu
    Until I read the ingredient list and FDA nutrition guide on the packages, I just assume that all the text translates to "Made from salt, sugar, lard, and chicken assholes." Even if it's just bottled water.

  16. #16
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    My little input would be that the only way to ensure you have "natural" food products is to grow them yourself or actually know the entire supply chain for a product.

    In most cases I would say buyers of "natural" produce are after a bit of an easy feelgood factor. I've seen the phrase "all natural" on products in the US enough times to be somewhat suspicious of it, particularly when you find the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup hiding in the list of ingredients.

    In fact it's possible to have "organic" HFCS, but it doesn't make it any better as a food sweetener or any more "natural".

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2007
    Location: LosAngeles: Between Amusements
    Or less natural. (Unnatural?) What do we really mean when we use the word "natural" in the context of human or pet food?

    The problem is that most everything is found in nature at the atomic level. There are very few substances which are unnatural at their core. Some transuranic elements with really short half lives, I think, and that's it. So we can't mean unnatural elements, maybe we mean molecules which are not formed in nature (i.e. without human help). Is that what we mean? While that would exclude plastics, it would also exclude most modern food products. Our beans, our corn, our livestock, all are the result of centuries of human interference via selective breeding to change their nature for our benefit and also the result of human interference in natural growing patterns through modern farming practices. Irrigation and feedlots should be a big no-no if you want truly natural foodstuffs. And then there is cooking! Clearly that changes the food at the molecular level into something unnatural like a hamburger and chocolate malted. I've never seen those in nature! So should we only eat uncooked food we can gather in the "wild" (whatever that is)? Forget whether that is practical, would it be healthier than the modern mass produced foods? Back when people did just that, populations were much lower and people didn't live long enough to get the modern diseases of aging. I suspect that such a diet is not healthier in total.

    The problem is that when you get right down to it, what we want is for "natural" to mean "good, healthy, and at the least does no harm for us to eat" but surprisingly no one is stepping up and making that claim for their food products. Instead, they imply that with the meaningless word "natural" and hope that we don't notice.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by faetal View Post
    Everything Demagogue said.

    It's like the "natural" remedies business, which tries to draw an artificial line between "natural remedies" (read: herbs purported to contain a therapeutic compound, but delivered in non-controlled amounts due to natural variation, plus also containing other useless or potentially harmful compounds) vs. "synthetic" medicines (read: purified molecules which exert a therapeutic effect).

    The public has an emotionally biased knee-jerk response to what is deemed "natural" or "synthetic" but really, all that matters is how it affects the body, since the primary purpose of digestion is to reduce complex foods down to the base constituents in order to metabolically process them.
    Your take on 'natural' vs. 'synthetic' remedies is not entirely accurate. Yes, the 'synthetic' forms contain extracted and purified molecules which are always dosed, but a number of potentially harmful compounds such as colors and preservatives are ALWAYS added to commercial medications. Parabens, for instance.

    Take a look at Marinol. Cannabis is illegal - but add some colors, preservatives and filler to it, and you get a marketable prescription drug.
    Last edited by froghawk; 24th Aug 2012 at 16:48.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by demagogue View Post
    This is also different from marketers exploiting consumers into buying unhealthy food.
    And THIS is kind of what I wanted to focus in this thread, not so much "natural vs. unnutural" debate (which I do agree people kneejerk over react to). What I am annoyed is just how clearly predatory this thing is - one of the cereals in the report even changed the box to nice green, put pictures of leaves and all claims of "natural" and "going back to nature" while using all synthetic and GMOed plants. I have nothing against using them, but christfuck, you shouldn't be allowed to advertise your product as the polar opposite of what it is and charge me extra for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by heywood View Post
    I'd call that preying on people's ignorance, not lying. You simply assumed the word "natural" on the box meant something it didn't. Lesson learned.

    Stop for a second and think what you just said - preying on people's ignorance is totally OK! Is this really what you espouse, or what you're merely used to? I really don't think I should have to spend 2 hours studying linguistics or get a PhD in biotechnology just to figure what's in my goddamn box of cereal.

    Another example: "good source of fiber". I see this on practically half of all cereal boxes now. All it really means is that there is some fiber in the product. How much? Who knows, check the nutrition information on the side of the box if you actually care about fiber.
    But I can't check the side of the box to see what pesticides the plants were sprayed with or what genetic modification was put into corn. I am not arguing the whole manufacturing process should be outlined on the product, but at least, that claims clearly designed to misinformed aren't used.

    Your argument is "well marketing is all about bending the truth and taking advantage of the consumer." Yes. That's what it is today. But it shouldn't be. Marketing should be communicating to the consumer what the product IS, not what it pretends to be in order to milk the uninformed. And it's the whole point of organizations like FDA (or even the government) to ensure that happens.

    Sure, let companies sell cyanide pills if people are retarded enough to buy them, but make sure that is communicated clearly. (Uber-Hyperbole follows: ) Not some BS claim like "well, the cynamide is only 0.49 which rounds down to 0 so technically we can put a claim like "contains NO cyanide* (on a 0-1 integer scale)" on our box a-ha!" or some equivalent marketing techniques.


    ---------

    As a side note, And I know Organic HAS a set definition, but again, that doesn't mean it's necessarily properly enforced. Secondly, organics allow certain chemicals/pesticides/processes and ban others - but with so much contradictory research and big corps funding, can we be really sure that one chemical is better than the other? I'm not saying "never buy veggies omg tinfoil," but rather, with all the misinformation and malpractice in food industry, merely "organic certified" doesn't inspire much confidence in me (and part of the reason I never bought into the hype).


    I really didn't mean to go into "natural" vs. "synthetic" debate, and I do agree just because something is "unnatural" doesn't instantly mean "bad" (AC is unnatural and I effin love it). Likewise, I avoid the low-fat/low-carb/light/etc. fads since it usually just means swapping one "unhealthy" ingredient for another, with the latter arguable even worse for you. I remember there being an interesting study on mice fed coke and diet coke showing the two showed no difference in health/weight - even though the diet mice weren't getting sugar, their body thought it was getting sugar (due to the artificial sweetener) and so ended up reacting the same way, heh.
    Last edited by Yakoob; 24th Aug 2012 at 18:44.

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: Aug 2007
    Location: LosAngeles: Between Amusements
    Quote Originally Posted by heywood View Post
    Another example: "good source of fiber". I see this on practically half of all cereal boxes now.
    Actually, most cereal boxes are nearly 100% fiber , unlike their contents (pre-consumer, post-consumer and other recovered wood fibers, but fiber none the less). I think the cereal manufactures are missing the boat by not counting the fiber in the boxes when printing the fiber claims on the sides of those same boxes. Perhaps a recycling campaign that encourages the eating of cereal boxes and throwing away the cereal (instead of the other way around) is called for. It might even be more nutritious. It surely would have us eating less fats and sugars!

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Oct 1999
    Location: Australia
    Quote Originally Posted by faetal View Post
    You should probably try to justify that a little, else it is just going to appear xenophobic.
    Poorer air and soil quality, less stringent quality standards in growing including use of pesticides. Their garlic has been bleached and won't sprout due to the chemical treatment, etc

  22. #22
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Quote Originally Posted by froghawk View Post
    Your take on 'natural' vs. 'synthetic' remedies is not entirely accurate. Yes, the 'synthetic' forms contain extracted and purified molecules which are always dosed, but a number of potentially harmful compounds such as colors and preservatives are ALWAYS added to commercial medications. Parabens, for instance.

    Take a look at Marinol. Cannabis is illegal - but add some colors, preservatives and filler to it, and you get a marketable prescription drug.
    This doesn't mean that natural remedies become better or conventional drugs are worse. You are singling out some processing methods which are potentially unhealthy, which don't impact on the debate since they aren't central to all synthetic medicines. Also, marinol isn't cannabis, it is THC. Cannabis, when smoked or eaten contains variable levels of THC as well as numerous other compounds.

  23. #23
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Quote Originally Posted by LarryG View Post
    The problem is that most everything is found in nature at the atomic level. There are very few substances which are unnatural at their core. Some transuranic elements with really short half lives, I think, and that's it. So we can't mean unnatural elements, maybe we mean molecules which are not formed in nature (i.e. without human help).
    I've always had a problem with this descriptor of natural vs. unnatural. Humans are as much a part of nature as anything. Our manipulation of matter is certainly more complex and diversethan, but arguably no less natural than bees making honey.

    An XBOX is as much a product of nature as a dung-ball.

  24. #24
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: The Land of Make Believe
    Which is pretty much why terms like "natural" are, and always will be, nothing more than meaningless marketing buzzwords.

    My favourite was always "farm fresh eggs", which always referred to eggs from hens stuck in cages the size of a shoebox.

  25. #25
    Still Subjective
    Registered: Dec 1999
    Location: Idiocy will never die
    Quote Originally Posted by faetal View Post
    I've always had a problem with this descriptor of natural vs. unnatural... ...An XBOX is as much a product of nature as a dung-ball.
    Yes. I've been towing this line since the 1980s.

    People who are only into "natural" thing make me laugh/cry. A friend of mine's girlfriend is a really, really fussy eater to the point where a planned gathering of 10 people has to alter its plans because she feels delicate and not able to handle the spicy food we were going to have.

    She only eats "natural" stuff because natural things are all good for you, and processed stuff is all bad for you. I've pointed out that a black mamba bites and belladonna are both natural and they'll do you a world of good.

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