In the U.S., there's been a spontaneous reaction to the use of preservatives, artificial flavoring and (most recently) irradiated food and GMOs. I've heard the reaction is actually stronger in Europe, but I can't really speak to that.
So the response has been the sale of 'all natural' and 'organic' foods; the reasoning being that 'natural' things are better. I can't count the number of people who I've talked to who, when asked why they think these foods are healthier, say something along the lines of "because it doesn't have chemicals".
Right. So it's pure energy then? Or perhaps degenerate matter? Doesn't sound very appetizing.
Alright, in defense of the companies selling these foodstuffs, they don't actually say it that way; they'll say something like "contains no artificial chemicals", or something along those lines. Of course, this means that, in principle, there could be horse semen in your organic beef, since (after all) there's nothing artificial about that. But I digress.
There's a logical fallacy inherent in this idea that natural is automatically healthier. Geez, I mean the very fact that there are natural poisons like hemlock and eucalyptus should clue you in to that. Using a less drastic example, I'd like to know how many people would drink milk that hasn't been pasteurized. Pasteurization isn't natural, after all.
I'm sure people are going to accuse me of being a corporate whore, so just so we're clear: I'm well aware that artificial chemicals can be dangerous too, and it's not quite true that there is no danger with GMOs. The truth of the matter is that both 'natural' and chemically or genetically modified foods have various problems. What concerns me is that these kinds of trends seem awful Luddite, and they seem to be gaining momentum. It's one thing to be careful, it's good to be careful; but it's quite another to intone ominously about things man was not meant to meddle with.