Organic vs. Natural: Understand the Difference

Organic vs. Natural: Understand the Difference

Organic vs. Natural: Understand the Difference, Educate Others
Written by Max Goldberg on January 2, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter.

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These past few days have been heaven for college football junkies such as myself. Why?

We got to watch a ton of great bowl games and the best is yet to come — January 10th when Auburn and Oregon play for the National BCS Championship. Then, a few months later comes March Madness, the college basketball championship tournament.

Now that I got the sports plug in, let’s talk about Organic vs. Natural.

I am addressing this now because when I was watching the Rose Bowl game yesterday (TCU vs. Wisconsin), a major potato-chip manufacturer kept popping up with its “all-natural” ads. The vegetables in the ads looked pristine, the kitchen was sparkling white and the cutting board was beautiful. It was about as picturesque and healthy looking as you can imagine.

And, they kept saying their potato-chips were “all-natural”.

According to the USDA, “natural” means food that “contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed.” In my view, “natural” means almost nothing.


(1) There is practically no enforcement or stringent standards.

(2) “Natural” has been badly abused as a marketing technique.

(3) “Natural” can include genetically-modified foods (GMOs) and growth hormones, both of which we know are very, very unhealthy.

Most conventionally-made potato chips and snack foods are made from GMOs. Furthermore, it is very likely that the vegetables used in them have been sprayed with toxic chemicals.

If these potato chip companies said “Made from Non-GMO Ingredients” or “Organic”, then we have a very different discussion here.

When I interviewed Maria Rodale a few months ago, one of the things that she told me was that studies are showing that the general public thinks that “natural” is much healthier than “organic”. This can be attributed to the huge marketing muscle of the major food manufacturers and is a grave misunderstanding that we must work to reverse.

Don’t be fooled into believes this “natural” marketing propaganda or hype.

Organic food has very strict standards — no GMOs, no pesticides or chemicals, nothing artificial, nothing can be irradiated or grown in sewage sludge — and the certification process is rigorous. Organic food is MUCH healthier for a person and for the planet.

I look at anything that says “natural” with a very heavy dose of skepticism. “Natural” does not mean healthy to me. What it does mean to me is that it is an over-used, manipulated food marketing term and something very vague.

So, the next time some person or some advertisement says that a food product is “natural”, give it a second thought.

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