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The Federal Food and Drug Administration is currently accepting public comment on the question of whether it should define the word natural. It is asking the wrong question.
. . .[C]an a label actually help make food better for us and for the planet?
Probably not. But in recent years labeling has taken center stage as the regulatory tool of choice for the food system anyway. . . .
Labeling is frequently applauded as less invasive than traditional regulation and more protective of consumer choice. The theory . . . is that, armed with good information, consumers will make good choices for themselves and, if they want to, for the environment. Producers will respond . . .and produce healthier and more sustainable food.
But the food system is messy. Even the experts can’t always tell which food is healthiest. In the environmental context, assessing whether the local, organic option is better than a conventional imported product requires a complicated life-cycle analysis. . . . In other words, “transparency” obfuscates.
The difference between natural and unnatural, like the difference between organic and conventional and GMO and GMO-free, is, itself, meaningless. These labels provide very little information either about how healthy the product is or about the size of its environmental footprint. Instead, these labels create opportunities for food producers to take advantage of the subset of consumers willing to pay more for perceived benefits. . . .
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. . . .Transparency burdens consumers with the responsibility to wade through reams of information armed only with their disposable income. . . as a means to fix massive systemic problems. . . .
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But let’s not pretend that labeling is an enlightened replacement for well-crafted regulatory systems that reign in environmental externalities of production and limit health consequences of consumption.
Read full, original post: The Labeling Shortcut