Most conscientious shoppers know that there is no regulation behind the word "natural" on food labels (with the exception, to some extent, of meat). So food companies slap the word on any product they want to, no matter how many chemicals it contains or how processed it is, knowing it somehow piques interest for consumers, even the ones who know it is a baseless claim. But that trend may soon change, if one recent lawsuit is successful in court. Food Safety News reports that ConAgra is being sued for the use of the "100% natural" claim on Wesson oil labels, when the products are actually made from genetically modified organisms.
The complaint cites definition of GMOs from both Monsanto ("Plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.") and the World Health Organization ("Organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.") to prove make its case.
The specific products that the lawsuit takes issue with are Wesson's canola, vegetable, and corn oils, as well as its Best Blend product.
More on the significance of the case from Food Safety News:
What makes this lawsuit especially intriguing is its potentially far-ranging impact. 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." While it's unclear how many of these products also claim to be natural, given all the greenwashing going on these days, it's likely to number in the thousands.
Specifically, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 91 percent of soybeans, both extremely common ingredients in processed foods. Numerous groups including the Center for Food Safety have been calling attention to the potential hazards of GMOs for years.
It's too soon to tell how the case will go and what consequences it might result in, but it holds potential at least to raise public awareness of how misused the word natural is—and to get companies to, perhaps, rethink their use of the word on products that are anything but natural.
More on genetically modified food:
GMO Round Up Ready Lawns Set to Debut in 2012
GM Drought Resistant Corn Up For Deregulation Even Though the USDA Says it Doesn't Perform Well
Country By Country GMO Breakdown: Guess Who Has By FAR The Most