Bananas. You see them everywhere, they make up a good portion of the produce aisle, and, shockingly, are the number one selling item at Walmart. They appear to be so perfect for human consumption that Kirk Cameron tried to use them to prove the existence of God. But they weren’t created by God, or by nature for that matter. The sweet, seedless bananas that we consume today have been made in labs by people. We have taken what used to be a berry in bunches full of seeds and turned them into sterile mutants. We have modified them so much that the only way for them to reproduce is for us to transplant part of the plant’s stem. So can we call the bananas that we sell and eat on a daily basis “natural”, or should every banana in this country be adorned with a sticker that says “artificial”?
People are so concerned with how things are labeled. Whether it says “natural” or “artificial” can determine how we consume products. With the negative connotation that is associated with the word “artificial”, it is safe to say that if bananas are classified as artificial, they would lose their spot as the number one selling item in Walmart. There is an easy line that people draw between “natural” and “artificial”. Generally, if it is made by humans, it is artificial; if it isn’t made by humans, it is natural. While this seems like an easy categorization, the act of categorizing often creates unnecessary panic. For example, people often operate under the misconception that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, can do harm to your DNA. People against GMOs call it unnatural and fake, while making the incorrect assumption that these words also mean dangerous. We label GMOs as artificial because, in a sense, they are; however, the connotations that come with it suggests that in order to sell GMOs to the public, we must either change the way we look at the word “artificial”, or have them not be labeled at all.
According to the FDA, although they have not issued an official definition, the word “natural” means that “nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food”. When you reduce everything down to chemicals, nothing is natural or artificial. Everything is just made up of groups of different atoms arranged to create different substances. Yet, in our desperate need to categorize everything, we still managed to assign the labels of natural and artificial to these groups of atoms. For example, there might be a puddle of water. However, because it was synthesized, according the the FDA, that puddle of water is unnatural. That is because, it was made in a lab where someone reacted hydrogen and oxygen gas together to create that puddle of water. If someone were to use that water to make a cake, that cake would be artificial. Yet the chemical composition of the water is no different from regular “natural” water. If you compare a molecule from that puddle and a molecule from the ocean, there would be no difference. So why do we feel the need to put two things that are chemically identical into different categories? The method of getting the chemical should not affect how we consume them. The typical consumer has no way of knowing that this “natural” product and this “artificial” product are the same in every way except how the ingredients came about.
Not only can artifice be the exact same as nature, it can sometimes be better. The father of evolution, Charles Darwin, would say that natural selection is essential to evolving animals and furthering species to make each generation better than the last. However, instead of weeding out the weak, artificial selection can eliminate the possibility of even having any. Darwin’s theory would be obsolete once humans start selecting against genetic diseases and the chances of cancer. Perhaps humans could select for desirable traits that could make it easier to build muscle or have different eye colors. In today’s brutally judgemental society, being able to transform yourself can improve people’s mental health as well as preventing physical health issues.
The negative connotation that the word artificial has controls people’s actions. People react to the word as if it is a plague infecting everyone foolish enough to accept artifice as a good thing. It has become a trend to go “all-natural” and reject anything synthesized by man. Especially here in California, where everything must be labelled “GMO-free” and “all natural” in order for people to buy food, people refuse “artificial” items without doing proper research to see if products are harmful or not. Artificial does not imply harm to your body.
Whether or not something is artificial cannot determine health benefits; it shouldn’t matter which is which since being natural versus being artificial isn’t a deciding factor on how you take care of yourself and your well being. So take a big bite out of that man-made, lab banana, since, despite its “fakeness”, it still tastes of sweet, seedless, artificial genetic manipulation.
“U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” “Natural” on Food Labeling. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015 <http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm456090.htm>.