Viewpoint: Government regulation of ‘natural’ label could backfire, hurt consumers—as it did for ‘organic’

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[Editor’s note: Peter Van Doren is editor of the quarterly journal Regulation and an expert on the regulation of housing, land, energy, the environment, transportation, and labor]

The “natural” label fight is a repeat of last decade’s fight over labeling food “organic.” In that case, the federal government did step in, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture creating the “USDA Organic” label and establishing rules on when the label can be used. However, that hardly ended the controversy over the use of the term “organic.”

[Organic] farmers are now fighting with new hydroponic farmers over the latter’s use of the “USDA Organic” label. Hydroponic farming seems consistent with organic farming goal….However, traditional organic farmers don’t want competition from the upstart hydroponics industry because that competition will likely cut into the price premium that organic foods now fetch. An FDA defined “natural” label would compel the same type of jockeying by producers to hurt rivals.

As the “USDA Organic” label has demonstrated, FDA intervention into “natural” foods would stifle competition and limit manufacturer transparency. Consumers concerned with the health and safety of the food they buy should instead push for the choices and accountability that markets provide.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: When Government Gets to Say What’s ‘Natural’