Field of Science

Chemicals in food - Oh My!

The Phactor's opinion about the UK's Guardian online news is generally positive.  However, it must be admitted that large portions always remain unread, so hard to judge the overall quality except to say better than HuffPo.  But when they run a contest for a science book give-away, well, that attracts your attention.  OK, so here's one of the science questions.  Ready?
Food that doesn't contain any chemicals  1. is known as organic; 2. was grown without pesticides; 3. will help you lose weight; 4.  is much healthier
Well, what was you answer?  As a biologist the Phactor has what may be a surprising answer.  None of them are correct.  Food that doesn't contain any chemicals doesn't exist.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but food is nothing but a bunch of chemicals.  Some are not digestable (cellulose), some are used primarily for the energy locked up in their chemical bonds (starch), and virtually all that can be digested are used for raw materials for making people chemicals.  Maybe the Guardian quiz makers should read some of the books they're giving away.  This is a great example of a common error in thinking.  "Chemical" has gotten such a negative connotation that people fail to realize that stuff is made of chemicals.  Misuse of terms causes many such errors.  "Natural" isn't necessarily good or better than its opposite, artificial; starting with A, arsenic is natural; aspirin is artificial.  Take your pick.  Now time for some lunch chemicals.   

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