Why Reading Product Labels is Important to Your Health
A product that is labeled non-GMO is not derived from any genetically modified sources. That means the product does not contain any bioengineered material. Plants, animals or microorganisms that have a modified genetic makeup in a laboratory are defined as being Genetically Modified or GMO. Corn is an example of a food that has been genetically modified to resist disease and produce more ears per plant. The DNA of genetically modified (GMO) corn contains the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) which produces a protein that is toxic to insects and other pests but not to humans, livestock or pets. These are the same proteins organic farmers use to control pests and harmful insects. They do not harm ladybugs or other beneficial insects.
I do not use Bt on my farm because it is toxic to the Monarch butterfly caterpillar. I rely on an assortment of natural and organic tactics to repel pests and encourage beneficial insects.
It is interesting that most scientists, about 90%, believe GMO’s are safe. This opinion is shared with the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences and The World Health Organization. According to research by the Pew Charitable Trust in 2020 only about half (51%) of consumers share this belief.
The FDA has very minimal regulatory guidelines providing limited oversight on how GMOs are developed. There is no regulatory oversight after the food manufacturers ‘proposed GMO food plan is approved. In other words, the FDA approves the ‘proposed plan’ before the food manufacturer begins to actually develop the product. What happens if problems occur during development or issues are identified during the growing season? They may or may not adhere to the ‘approved’ plan. The consumer must rely on the integrity of the food manufacturer. This contributes to confusion and distrust by consumers.
Organic labeling can also be confusing. According to the U.S.D.A at least 70% of the product must contain organic ingredients to carry the label. Do your own research and read labels.
Green washing is a term used to identify products and ingredients that appear ‘organic’ or ‘all natural’ when in fact they are not. Examples of greenwashing are:
Coca-Cola life – in an attempt to make it appear more healthy the company used a green label and added ‘life’ to its name. Sweetened with a mix of sugar and stevia, the drink is still 89 calories. Coca-Cola was called out by numerous publications for ‘greenwashing’ a drink that is 6.6% sugar and is far from healthy. The drink was discontinued in 2020 as a result of poor sales.
Keurig – shared misleading claims of recycling and was called out in Canada for it in 2022. The mountain of discarded coffee pods remains a controversial topic as they are not recyclable. Keurig was fined $3 million for misleading recycling claims.
Another greenwashing tactic is distracting customers by diverting attention from the bigger picture. Disclosures written in tiny fonts and placed far away from the ‘qualified’ claim on the product label is an example of distraction.
Better Homes & Gardens promoted a home air freshener with natural 'essential oils'. The product was sold in big box discount stores in the summer of 2021. On November 4, 2021 the CDC issued a recall of the products after several consumers were hospitalized and 2 died as a result of bacterial contamination. The manufacturer failed to test and identify a deadly bacteria that resulted in the death of innocent consumers who thought they were purchasing a safe 'natural' product.
Dawn dishwashing detergent is an example of diverting attention away from the ingredients and appealing to consumers’ emotions. The label on the front of the container includes a baby duckling and references to their participation in wildlife cleanup after oil spills. The company goes on to state how they have pledged a million dollars to environmental conservation. Browsing the aisle of toxic household cleaners you might be convinced that your favorite product is also environmentally responsible.
Proctor & Gamble, the parent company of Dawn, fails to clearly disclose the fact that the product they are touting as ‘environmentally safe’ is composed of Petroleum, Triclosan and 1,4, Dioxane. The ingredients in their product damage delicate marine ecosystems. Triclosan, an antimicrobial ingredient, has been shown to destroy marine algae, invertebrates and amphibians. It also reduces growth, severely affects reproduction and the survival of animals impacted by petroleum spills. 1,4 Dioxane is a known human carcinogen (causes cancer) and is strongly linked to breast cancer tumors. It is found in most home cleaning chemicals and cosmetics. It can harm the eyes, skin, liver and kidneys if exposed to the chemical. It is not directly added to most products but is a result of chemical reaction between the common ingredients that are used in the manufacturing process. 1,4, Dioxane is usually in products that also include toxins such as PEG or polyethylene glycol, poly glycol and polyoxyethylene.
Learn to recognize Big Red Flags on labels: 'fragrance', phrases such as 'toxic to marine or aquatic wildlife', PEG and other chemical abbreviations.
Reading product labels helps us make informed decisions about good nutrition, our health and how to protect our families. Labels contain important information about how to safely use household cleaning products, how to store them and how to dispose of them.
No product mentioned or suggested on this website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. This information is for educational purposes only. You are encouraged to do your own research and make the best decisions for yourself and your family.