What is Up with the Organic and Natural Part of the Cosmetic ISO Standard?

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So
– if you read the last blog about why GMOs are bad, then this blog will make a
little more sense. I think GMOs are a threat to food security for the entire
world. How does that fit in with cosmetics?
Background:
ISO
is the Int’l Standards Organization based in Switzerland (you know those very organized Swiss). Many industries
look to ISO to set broad, clear standards for everything from how to test
bacteria to how to make a screw. It is supposed to be a fair, transparent
process. However, like all things in life that involve people, there are
agendas. The people at the table are trying to meet the expectations of
multiple players, countries, and value systems as well as trying to keep their
employers happy.
The
theory is that “anyone can participate” however it is very expensive: they move
the meetings all over the world, it takes a lot of time, and if you are a small
business, it is beyond reach. Consequently, the people on the committee serve
at the pleasure of large corporations who can afford to send people to these
locations and afford to pay them to pay attention. Current members seated at the
table include large trade associations that are funded by large manufacturers
in many cases. I would not say it is an impartial process.
The
Result of the ISO Standard Work for Organic and Natural:
If
you are in the “organic” or “natural” industry, one of the areas of concern is
how they defined these two O & N words. Most of the focus on organic goes
back to the legal definitions set by the various agricultural laws (in the US,
Japan and the EU for starters). Since we fought all those battle, that is less
of an issue than “natural”. The big showdown for this ISO Standard was: can
“natural” ingredients be made from GMO feed stock? Evidently the vote was a “yes”.
Gee whiz, what a surprise. Big companies want to sell “natural products” to
uninformed consumers who only want to trust a label.
Another
note is that the ISO Organic and Natural Cosmetic Standard has a lot of loop holes
– this is because of all of the players combined with the different laws in
different countries – plus those agendas I referred to. So there are all sorts of exceptions in the standard. We’ll see how that plays out.
Having
sat in meetings where chemist clearly do not know where their food comes from, I’m not
really surprised that many of them supported allowing GM feed stocks to be
called out as “natural” – but I disagree with them.
Fundamentally
any description of genetic engineering includes the fact that a gene from a
plant or animal is transferred into another plant. On the face of it, that is not
a natural act. Many people want it to be “natural” because they have so much money
invested. That is not a good reason to make up a false claim. Consumers
eventually figure it out.
I
think genetic engineering is important. There are probably very useful and safe
applications for it but open pollinator crops that depend on adaptation and
seed collection to improve the species are not the right candidates. They are
simply the most lucrative application that the current brand of producers could
think of at the time. Doesn’t say a lot for their creative spirit and it certainly does not
bode well for the future of transparency in labeling or for a secure food supply.
If
you have the opportunity and if you care, make your opinion known. Write an
email to the Personal Care Products Council (www.personalcarecouncil.org – lower right “contact us” button) and tell them that GMO derived
ingredients in cosmetics are not natural. Act on your principles.

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