Synthetic vs. naturals: The battle is on

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nature

A report published by the group Sense About Science questioning the
safety and legislation behind natural ingredients has drawn
criticism from a number of researchers, who have leapt to the
defense of the market.

UK-based Sense About Science published the full report on Wednesday, receiving attention from the global consumer media. Its implications for personal care and cosmetics industry are widespread, and particularly pertinent in view of the huge increase in popularity of natural-based products.

The report, entitled 'Making Sense of Chemical Stories', primarily aims to rubbish claims often made on personal care products that they are chemical-free. It says that such claims are 'nonsense', stating that all products contains chemicals to some degree or another, even if all the ingredients are natural.

It also stresses that there are numerous toxic compounds that can and do exist in leading natural ingredients used in cosmetic, cosmeutical, supplements and pharmaceutical products and claims that synthetic counterparts can often be proved as safer because of tougher legislation.

"What is occupying minds at Cropwatch is why exactly Sense About Science is stepping into this arena, and what it means for the future of natural products. We are still trying to find this out,"​ said Tony Burfield, Cropwatch spokesperson.

Burfield went on to contradict claims made in the Report that the legislation for natural substances is relatively lenient compared to that of synthetic substances.

"Up to now we have noticed that the safety of naturals issues in cosmetics, biocides and other areas was increasingly under the microscope, to the extent that you could be forgiven in thinking a vendetta against natural products was operating,"​ he said.

Burfield stresses that the publication of the Sense About Science report appears to provide further evidence that there is an industry-backed program to fight against the reputation of natural based products and ingredients.

"The safety of naturals draws on good knowledge and botany, economic botany, phytochemistry, experimental design, physiological biochemistry and many, many other disciplines",​ Burfield added.

But going beyond the heavy legislation and safety testing, many individuals working in industries where natural-based products form a core focus agree with the old adage that what mother nature bestows upon us is best.

Neil Levin, spokesperson of US-based Now Foods, sums up the reaction of many about the criticisms aimed at natural products by the report.

"I believe that 'natural is better', because nature has a wisdom in producing chemicals an out bodies have adapted to their presence. Many of these are essential to life,"​ Levin said.

"Nothing in the Sense About Science report convinces me that I should prefer being exposed to the not-quite-identical man-made versions of naturally occurring chemicals or totally synthetic, environmentally persistent, synthetic chemicals.

"Sense About Science promises to uses scientific evidence in its reporting, but my review of the research convinces me that this promise was not kept."

If you would like to comment on the Sense About Science report or any of the comments made in this article, then please email the editor, specifying whether or not your comments are for publication.

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