Mothers for Natural Law

Overview

Mothers for Natural Law (M4NL) is an offshoot of the Natural Law Party (NLP), formed in 1996 with the goal of delivering the quasi-religious ideas of the NLP through seemingly ordinary, “family friendly” moms. Although the group’s charter mentions a host of issues including crime and public education, within a year of its founding M4NL’s programs were focused solely on one target: genetically improved foods. Under the leadership of husband-and-wife team Laura and Robin Ticciati, the group’s work has evolved into a first-rate scare campaign.

So what is “Natural Law”? It is essentially Hindu Vedic Law (an offshoot of Hindu folk medicine), as interpreted in the United States by cult leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He came to the United States in the 1960s to teach his method of Transcendental Meditation (TM) — you may recall his brief association with the Beatles — and since then has established teaching centers in 80 countries. In 1988 The Illustrated Weekly of India estimated his net worth at $3.5 billion. According to former Maharishi follower Anthony DeNaro, TM itself is a fundamentalist Hindu religious movement masquerading as “alternative” health care. DeNaro has written that the Maharishi himself once snapped: “When America is ready for Hinduism, I will tell them!”

This cult leader chose the sleepy town of Fairfield, Iowa, as his American base of operations, and poured millions of dollars into founding the Maharishi International University, later renamed the Maharishi University of Management (MUM). This is a college that teaches TM as the key to personal success and harmony. Members of its faculty, along with NLP supporters, have tried to export TM to public school districts and both public and private universities, promising feats of flying and invisibility as well as a drop in the local crime rate. Not coincidentally, Fairfield, Iowa, is also the home base for M4NL, the Natural Law Party, and dozens of for-profit businesses whose incomes depend on Ayurvedic medicine, as well as the “organic foods” and “sustainability” movements.

Blackeye

Serious scientific scandal has dogged Maharishi University since 1991. The school’s medical adjunct was accused by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) of “a widespread pattern of misinformation, deception, and manipulation of lay and scientific news media” in order to promote its organic health remedies. According to JAMA, two doctors who claimed to be Maharishi University deans had their medical licenses revoked for hawking a potion said to contain fungus, feces and bacteria. AIDS patients were charged $500 a month for this “remedy.”

The Maharishi University of Management’s graduate dean is a physicist named John Fagan, whose 1995 book alleged that genetically improved foods represented “grave hazards to health, agriculture, and the environment.” Fagan’s own mantra is a warning against biotech foods combined with a call for “independent” safety testing. Not coincidentally, Fagan owns a company (also based in Fairfield, Iowa) called Genetic ID, which happens to own a method of testing food for the presence of genetically engineered ingredients. Fagan has lobbied the FDA to adopt his genetic labeling certification method as the official U.S. standard, hoping to make his company a direct beneficiary of the push to pre-test all food. Genetic ID also produced the laboratory results on which Greenpeace based the StarLink corn scare.

Motivation

Mothers for Natural Law is funded in large part by organic-foods businesses like Eden, Wild Oats, and Organic Valley. In return, these profiteers are promoted in the “What to Eat, How to Shop” section of the M4NL web site. This mutual back-scratching is a typical example of organic-only food producers using a nonprofit group to scare consumers into buying their overpriced products. The “natural foods” industry makes 5- and 6-figure donations to M4NL and the Natural Law Party. Laura Ticciati stirs up fear at every opportunity. The “natural foods” folks reap the financial benefits. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In some cases, it’s the Maharishi’s financial empire that profits. The Maha (as John Lennon once called him on the David Frost show) owns thousands of acres of organic-only farmland and markets his own lines of “natural” and organic foods.

To drive the message home, visitors to M4NL’s web site are barraged with desultory language about foods that don’t align with “Natural Law,” reflect “sustainable” choices, or guarantee a biotech-free diet. For instance, meat is a big no-no: “Because animal feed often contains genetically engineered organisms, all animal products or by-products may be affected.” One web page warns: “If the label mentions any of the [over 100] ingredients listed below without explicitly qualifying it as organic, then the product probably contains genetically engineered ingredients” [emphasis added].