What's the biggest difference between 'natural' and 'organic' products?
True
Seventh Generation

The grocery run. An errand as old as, well, food.

But most would agree that it's not what it used to be.



Remember when grocery shopping was like being in a sexy music video? GIF via Huffington Post.

What was once a simple matter of crossing items off a hurriedly jotted list has become real brain work.

Walking into a grocery store, our eyeballs are blitzed with options, buzzwords, and labels distinguishing the guiltless from the garbage.

Frankly, it can be a little overwhelming.

GIF from "The Hurt Locker."

Let's consider two of the most common terms we see on the shelves: "natural" and "organic."

Both words appear to be loaded with wholesome goodness, but when it comes to our food and other products, they couldn't be more different.

"Natural"

Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

You've probably bought food marked "natural" thinking you were making a healthy choice.

According to The Washington Post, "natural" is the second most money-making label on the market, helping sell over $40 billion of food annually in the U.S.

But here's the thing: the Food and Drug Administration has no clear definition for the word "natural" on food labeling. And contrary to popular belief, food companies aren't held to any verifiable standards before printing it on their packaging.(It's possible this could change, though — the FDA is currently calling for public comments on the use of the term in food labeling.)

Photos by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

Not only are you likely to find processed foods that are "no longer the product of the earth" carrying the label, says the FDA, but Consumer Reports explains that these foods are often produced with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and artificial chemicals and grown with toxic pesticides.

While "natural" cleaning products may have their upsides — "natural" and "nontoxic" labels are often as informative as they get because cleaning products can't be certified organic and they don't have to list ingredients — when it comes to food, don't count on the label leading you to reliably better health- and eco-conscious choices because it's not much more than a marketing ploy.

"Organic"

Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

The food industry can't be as slaphappy with "organic" as they are with "natural" because it requires third-party certification — meaning they actually have to do something to use it.

According to the California Certified Organic Farmers, "the use of sewage sludge, bioengineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation, and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is prohibited from organic production."

A farmer dons full biohazard gear before handling Monsanto's Lasso herbicide. Photo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

And for animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy to be labeled organic, they have to be sourced from non-cloned animals that are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones.

Photo by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

The science is still out on whether organic foods are healthier for us, but the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency lists a few reasons to choose them: They're generally considered better for the environment, animal welfare, and for reducing human intake of pesticide residues and additives.

Photos by Maz Ali/Upworthy.

Organic designations are tiered, with "100% organic" being the pinnacle of food purity and various partially-organic categories — "organic," "made with organic ingredients," and "less than 70% organic ingredients" — falling beneath it.

But it's not a perfect system.

A grain elevator perched on the horizon. Photo by Eric Crowley/Flickr.

Just because something is organic doesn't mean it hasn't been exposed to any pesticides — farmers are able to use some approved synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. And organic does not mean local. Produce and products may be shipped across the country, meaning they could still have a high carbon footprint.

Photo by bilbobagweed/Flickr.

Like "natural," organic doesn't necessarily mean healthy: There are plenty of cookies, ice cream, chips, and other not-super-nutritious foods produced organically. The best way to know the health benefits of a product is still just to look at the ingredients.

"Organic" is not perfect, but at least we can look it up and get a fairly good idea of how that food is produced. The same cannot be said of "natural." But the more curious and discerning we become, the more likely we'll be to steer our carts toward products worthy of our trust.

Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less