Whether it’s sun tan lotion, farm policy or what you eat for dinner, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is always trying to scare you about something. But what’s truly scary about EWG is its disregard for sound science and objectivity.
Farmers caught on to EWG’s tactics a long time ago. After all, it’s farmers that EWG spends countless hours demonizing in their efforts to use pseudoscience to boost their own bottom line and build its brand. Now, non-farmers are catching on as well.
Fear, not facts
Writing for Salon.com, Jenny Splitter, a mother of two, shared how she discovered what farmers discovered a long time ago: EWG peddles misguided fear, not scientific facts. From the piece:
When experts review the EWG’s consumer guides, the findings often come up short. In their Dirty Dozen list, the EWG publicizes what they call “dirty” pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables without mentioning that what they describe as “dirty” pesticide residue levels are actually safe because they’re well below “tolerance” levels set by the EPA. In their most recent sunscreen guide, the EWG warns consumers to avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, but the U.S. Skin Cancer Foundation and many toxicologists disagree. The EWG recommends that consumers avoid GMOs despite the scientific consensus on their safety.
Spreading misinformation is bad enough in and of itself. Using misinformation to boost your own financial interests makes it even worse. From the Salon.com piece:
So, the EWG could give select products a high rating, sell its name to those highly rated products, and then collect the revenues and garner increased brand recognition.
This isn’t an entirely new strategy for the EWG. They’ve long had financial ties to the products and industries they evaluate. Mark Hyman sits on their board and uses the EWG sunscreen guide to recommend Vitamin D supplements that he sells through his online store. Board member Christine Gardner is a brand ambassador for Beautycounter, also one of EWG’s corporate partners and prospective licensee in the EWG Verified program. The EWG also gives its best score to and sells sunscreens from the Honest Company. That company was founded in part by the former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, an organization that has now been subsumed by the EWG. The EWG’s “Sun Safety Coalition” — a partnership between EWG and the companies it recommends — sells its partner companies’ sunscreens on the EWG site and in retail stores that participate in their program.
Splitter sums up EWG best in the final paragraph of the Salon.com piece:
If parents knew the facts, the EWG couldn’t prey on our fears. And whether one’s brand involves luxury or healthy living — fear sells.
Farm Policy Facts
Be sure to read Splitter’s entire EWG takedown here. It’s well worth your time. Farm Policy Facts also has a good companion piece that goes into additional detail about EWG’s dubious tactics when it comes to targeting farmers. There’s also several quotes from Congressman laughing off EWG and its “studies.”
A sign of hope?
The Salon.com and Farm Policy Facts pieces expose EWG for what it is, but is there hope that EWG is finally seeing the error of its ways? Is EWG ready to come out from behind its curtain of misinformation?
Here at the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, we tweeted a link to Splitter’s Salon.com piece on Wednesday. Lo and behold, EWG liked the Tweet!
Was an apology to agriculture from EWG forthcoming? How about a press release declaring that it’s safe to put on sun screen and eat dinner? Maybe even full disclosure on all of EWG’s financial ties?
Nope. EWG unliked the Tweet a few minutes after they liked it. Turns out liking the Tweet wasn’t the first step in EWG’s new mission to be honest in what it peddles to consumers. It was probably just an overly eager intern who was a little too quick to tap that little heart icon.