(NaturalNews) In a recent feature, Mother Jones Magazine calls attention to the fact that many "green" or "socially responsible" claims made on product labels are meaningless or deceptive, even when accompanied by a certification seal.
Meaningless claims are those that allude to weak or nonexistent standards. For example, there is no process for certifying a product as "cruelty free," "hormone free," "no additives," "hypoallergenic," "green," "earth smart" or "nature's friend." This means that a piece of steak prominently labeled as "hormone free," "additive free," and "cruelty free" could contain food coloring and come from a cow that was only allowed to move when it was time for its hormone injection.
Other deceptive claims include "natural" -- which only means that a food does not contain artificial flavors, preservatives or other synthetic ingredients -- and "biodegradable," which only means that a product must be made from ingredients that "return to nature." "Nontoxic" products are certified to not cause poisoning if ingested, but may still be carcinogenic or cause other long-term health effects. "Fragrance free" products are those with no noticeable smell but may contain any number of chemicals, while "free range" poultry came from birds that had "access" to the outdoors for the majority of their lives. This does not mean that the animals ever saw the outside, and has no meaning at all if applied to eggs or meat from a mammal.
Some standards, while real enough, are still deceptive and may include significant loopholes. For example, wood and paper products certified under the industry-created Sustainable Forestry Initiative may come from clearcut forests or pesticide-intensive tree farms. "Dolphin Safe" tuna may be produced by killing any number of sea turtles or other endangered species, and companies making products certified "Carbonfree" simply paid someone to "offset" their greenhouse gas emissions.
The practice of carbon offsets has garnered heavy criticism for allowing companies to keep emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide by simply paying someone else for conservation practices they would have engaged in anyway -- thereby leading to no reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions. The practice has been parodied on the Web site www.cheatneutral.com.
Sources for this story include: m.motherjones.com.