A (Reasonable) Dose of Fear?

By Elizabeth Baldwin

Last week I discussed Paracelsus who said:

“Solely the dose determines that a thing is not a poison.”

In my research, I found a guide that looks at chemicals—working to debunk the myth that artificial is bad and natural is good—considering the issue of toxicity from a volume perspective.  They have several posters including this one:


I very much appreciated a point made above, as well as one they made in another poster, which provided a comparison of the toxicity in natural material like potatoes or apples with created chemicals like MSG or artificial sweetener.  It summed things up with this quote:

“One of the Chemical Toxicity is a sliding scale, not black and white–and whether a chemical is naturally occurring or man-made tells us nothing about its toxicity.”

Their guide looked at a number of misconceptions.  The first one was the one I wish people would really take to heart:

Misconception 1: You can lead a chemical-free life

The chemical reality is that you cannot lead a chemical-free life, because everything is made of chemicals. Chemicals are substances and chemistry is the science of substances – their structure, their properties and the reactions which change them into other substances. Claims that products are “chemical free” are untrue. There are no alternatives to chemicals, just choices about which chemicals to use and how they are made.

I added the emphasis to the last part.

Why am I spending so much blog time on food and pesticides and chemicals?  It all comes back to my desire that we stop using fear to sell things.  Let’s focus on facts and speak clearly and accurately about our products.  If necessary, let’s look at regulations that are meaningful and necessary and well written.  If not necessary, let’s understand why not.

Fear is a healthy part of our survival instinct.  But it too can be toxic in large doses.

A favorite movie moment of mine is towards the end of the American President, when Michael Douglas’s character comes out and makes a speech about politics.  It includes these lines about his opponent’s campaign tactics:

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, (he) is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

We do have real problems in this industry to solve and we also need serious people to solve them.  And just pointing fingers at one group or one company or one product, or being afraid of talking about them—or plain just being afraid—is not the way to solve them.  It may win you a sale, but it is not the way to make things better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.