What's the biggest difference between 'natural' and 'organic' products?
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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/Welcometoterranova.

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/Welcometoterranova.

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/Welcometoterranova.

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/Welcometoterranova.

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/Welcometoterranova.

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.

via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

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Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

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Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

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via WatchMojo / YouTube

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