The truth behind those “organic” and “non-GMO” labels

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a weird organization. (Even more so now that it has an incompetent human at its helm. Of course, in all fairness, this incompetence did precede him…)

I know I talk about this agency’s shortcomings a lot. But today I want to hone in on how it handles the organic food industry and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Because the truth is, the food industry is lying to us, and the FDA is letting them.

Pick on someone your own size

As a general rule in this country, we expect not to be lied to. Clearly that’s changing every single minute of every single day. But as a whole, a majority Americans believe what they’re told when it comes to certain matters.

But it’s time to wise up. Because the advertising industry routinely manipulates consumer ignorance, confusion, and fear — all to increase the bottom line of the company.

Modern food advertising is riddled with dubious health claims and questionable scientific assertions. The FDA is supposed to police such deceptive practices, but they only tend to pick on the little guys — like a warning they sent to a Massachusetts bakery for including “love” in its ingredient list.

But when it comes to the $47 billion a year organic industry, the FDA gives a complete pass to blatantly false and deceptive advertising claims.

Just take a glance at the Whole Foods website, which explicitly claims that organic foods are grown “without toxic or persistent pesticides.” (If you’re a longtime reader, you may remember a blog post I wrote about Whole Foods — or as I like to call them, Whole Fibs.)

But many organic farmers actually do rely on synthetic and natural pesticides to grow their crops — just as conventional farmers do. Which means organic products can contain numerous chemicals.

Pesticides are toxic by definition. And even so-called “organic” pesticides pose a significant environmental and human health risk.

For example, copper sulfate is an organic pesticide — and is the most common residue found in and on organic food. Yet, the European Union recently determined that it may cause cancer.

To make matters worse, copper sulfate persists in soil — so it sticks around even after farmers are done actively using it.

They intended to ban it in Europe, but backed off because organic farmers don’t have a viable alternative.

And that’s only one example of how foods you thought were safe may not be all they seem…

False and misleading

Food marketers are masters at misleading customers. And there are times when the FDA actually cracks down on certain things. For example, Tropicana company can’t market its product as “fat free,” because there isn’t any fat in oranges to begin with.

But when it comes to GMOs… well, that’s a whole other story.

Companies like Tropicana can label their orange juice as “Non-GMO Project Verified” even though there are no GMO oranges on the market.

But it’s not just orange juice…

The “Non-GMO Project” label appears on more than 55,000 organic and non-organic products on supermarket shelves today — many of which have no GMO counterpart or couldn’t possibly contain GMOs.

This inherently makes these claims “false and misleading” because they imply that a certain food is “safer, more nutritious, or otherwise has different attributes than other comparable foods because the food was not genetically engineered.”

Yet, the FDA never disputes these kinds of absence claims.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say — this is the FDA at work. So, as the old adage goes: Buyer beware.

My advice? Don’t read labels. Instead, read the ingredient lists (they can’t lie there). And whatever you do, avoid eating organic foods that had to fly thousands of miles to get to your plate.

If you can, find a local farmer’s market and shop local and seasonal instead. That’s what I do.

It’s much easier to get the full story about the foods you’re eating from the people who actually grow them than it is to try and read between the lines of fancy labels and strategic packaging.

P.S. I know eating is tricky business these days. Thankfully, my latest book, The A-List Diet takes the guesswork out of it. With over 100 mouthwatering recipes, you’ll feel — and look — better than you have in years. Click here to get your very own copy today.