Natural Discredited

There’s a 2016 study from Pediatrics that is making its way around Facebook right now. It’s authors conclude that we mustn’t use the word “natural” to promote breastfeeding because this fosters a world view in which factory-made things like vaccines become suspect. They say that “We should think twice about referencing the word “natural” in breastfeeding promotion, even if it motivates women to breastfeed.” They are concerned about several different preferences, which they lump together as natural:

  • rejection of genetically modified food
  • a preference for organic food
  • rejection of assisted reproductive technologies
  • concerns over environmental toxins
  • questions about water quality
  • alternative medicine [sic: now called complementary and integrative medicine]


The authors want to eliminate the use of the word “natural” because it does not align consistently with public health goals even though use of the word has been highly successful in promoting the public health goal of breastfeeding. Furthermore, their implied correlation between choosing breastfeeding and questioning vaccinations is unsubstantiated and undermines breastfeeding.

In addition, the authors’ claim that the word “natural” lacks a clear definition is simply not true. Certainly, the word lacks consistent usage, but its definition is clear. Natural is what is produced by nature as opposed to that which is man-made. Natural stands in contrast to artificial, which is produced by human beings.


This piece struck me as curious because it is such a stretch to suggest that natural living advocates are anti-vaccine. I recall when an obscure article in a Colorado paper first suggested that those who don’t vaccinate hurt those who do and watched as this point of view grew to a fever pitch. I’ve seen those who exercise freedom of conscience in healthcare, particularly regarding vaccinations, be increasingly marginalized. I suspect that we will see more articles that malign the natural.

Because this article seemed to have a hidden agenda, I wondered who might have funded it and who the authors were. What I found will interest you.

Lead author, Jennifer Martucci, is a a Research Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation at the Center for Oral History, where they “preserve, study, and interpret the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences.” Their Center for Scholars is located in Philadelphia, PA.

Co-author, Anne Barnhill, is Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.


Also at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is Paul Offit, the Chair of Vaccinology. Offit is well-known as a vaccine inventor who regularly demonizes those who disagree with him. An invasion of privacy complaint accused him of fabricating an online conversation in his 2008 book, Autism False Prophets. Offit has been widely criticized for making millions of dollars from his vaccine royalty payments. In addition, he considers “alternative medicine” to be quackery and published a book in 2013 entitled Do You Believe in Magic? — The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine. and in 2013 he and a colleague declared a moratorium on the use of dietary supplements at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

In a recent article in Slate, “Gluten-Free Madness Needs to End,” Offit ups the ante and calls natural living advocates “the anti-science left.” The “anti-science left” go to Whole Foods where they buy GMO (“one of the most important scientific advances of the 20th century”) free, BPA (“guaranteed safe by the FDA”) free, and gluten-free food. It’s madness according to Offit. And, note how he equates the preference for natural with anti-science and reduces it to a food fetish or phobia. His reasoning sounds strangely familiar.

I’m convinced that the article in Pediatrics and the article in Slate are party to the deliberate fabrication of a new enemy of science—and thus vaccines—the anti-science left. Watch as this idea becomes part of the public relations playbook of those who want to deny freedom of conscience in healthcare.

For more on the topic of media manipulation and vaccines, see my article Kill the Messenger.

Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of She founded in 1995 and was its editor-in chief until 2012. Peggy was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three.

Share this post.

Peggy O'Mara

About Peggy O'Mara

Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award winning writer, and independent thinker.

2 thoughts on “Natural Discredited

  1. Cindy Griffin

    Thank you, Peggy. As always, you nailed it. Sadly, so many people are now so ill (as parents, as well as their children), that the propaganda machine continues to try to wear them down with “science.” I’m in your generation, and find it very sad that “studies” like this – blatantly unscientific and propagandized – are still holding sway with so many.

    Big Pharma, and its cohorts, Big Ag, Big Chem and Big Food, are clearly becoming desperate to denounce the market trends. They are feeling the pinch of those of us who walk – wallets in hand – away from them and turn to all the things they now proclaim as silliness at best, or outright stupidity.

    Yet, it is their pseudoscience that is being disproven, even by their own studies. Vaccines do cause harm, even death. Millions of parents worldwide can attest to it. But that doesn’t line up with the bottom line of profit motive, therefore all of us are nut cases, naive, or criminals, in the minds of those who profit.

    The fringes of the natural living world have become the fabric of the marketplace. And the old guard is screaming “foul” and doing all in its well-moneyed power to be sure the trend turns back towards them. Let us hold our ground. Thank you again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *