Natural: A Rant
by Jeff Wagg
January 16, 2013
Every time I see the phrase "All Natural" I cringe a little. It's a label proudly slapped on the front of countless products that proclaims the contents to be virtuous and free from... well, free from what actually? The unnatural? The supernatural?
The Food and Drug Administration has only this to say about it:
From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.I love the phrase "the product of the earth." So for the FDA, the term means free from "added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances." And how would one define synthetic substances? Er, well... that's up for debate. In my opinion, that renders the FDA's opinion on the matter non-useful for the consumer.
But let us consider nature for a moment. What comes to mind when you hear the word "nature?" I mean, what comes to mind after granola bars. Maybe you're seeing a lush, verdant forest or a pristine beach. A majestic mountain range? Nature just wants to give us a hug and provide for us like our mothers did when we were itty bitty babies.
Or maybe you see nature for what it really is. Brutal, uncaring, and wanting to consume your flesh.
Nature has been given this vaunted status as something in-errantly "right," and any human interaction with it is a defilement. The natural way is the right way and anything else is synthetic and bad. But if you look beneath the leaves of that verdant forest of yours, you'll find little that can be described as "good." It's warfare on a massive scale. Any observed harmony or balance is due to a constantly escalating arms race—also known as "evolution." As soon as a species fails to keep up the pace, it's eliminated.
Insects routinely hijack other animals to live as zombie brooding chambers, plants kill other plants with secreted poisons, fungi attempts to eat just about everything, flies feed on the fungi, spiders feed on the flies, birds eat the spiders and sometimes the spiders eat the birds. It's a whirlwind of deadly chemicals, slashing claws, and genetic reprogramming.
Nature has no will of its own. It's just a description of countless individuals wills, tearing at each other.
Nature is not our friend. Insomuch as we separate ourselves from it definitionally, nature is what we're fighting against. Nearly everything found in a supermarket is there to help us fight nature. Shampoo? Prevents the natural build up of oils and dirt in our hair. Juices helps stave off the natural depletion of water and vitamins. Toothbrushes deny food and habitat to millions of organisms with each brushing. This is our way of imposing our wills.
Oh, but I know what "they" mean by "all natural." They mean "no chemicals." You know.. like those.. chemical things. They come from factories. They're like poison, but used for things like preserving food and stuff. Ahh yes, chemicals... like the ones found in pineapples that dissolve flesh or mint which kills wasps or arsenic that kills everything. Oh wait.. those are natural, sorry, I got confused.
Consider this: it's natural for us to get diseases and die. Any time you do something to treat a disease, be it pointless homeopathy, imprecise and often ineffective herbal remedies, or actual medicine—you're going against nature. You're being unnatural. You can no longer wear your "all natural" lapel pin. You are in fact fighting nature, as well all do constantly.
And if you're going to fight nature, why use sticks and stones? We have science now, and science can provide us with a very wide array of weaponry and tactics to keep the ravages of nature at bay, at least for a while.
I may have stretched the analogy too far here, but the bottom line is this: "all natural" means that the manufacturer is trying to use the fear of "chemicals" to sell you a product.
by Jeff Wagg
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit