Among anti-science activists and concerned parents who believe no one would intentionally undermine public trust in science, Environmental Working Group is arguably one of the most trusted brands out there. Their annual list of Dirty Dozen foods always gets mainstream media attention and they know how to sell the intellectual placebo that their recommendations allow you to love a more a natural (read: safer) lifestyle.
If you want to be a better parent, it's hard to argue with going natural.
Except it isn't true.
EWG has almost single-handedly manufactured the belief that if something sounds like a chemical, it must be scary, and they have been foisting off those beliefs on the unsuspecting public for over 30 years. When Greenpeace was still migrating from protesting nuclear bombs to saving whales, EWG was already promoting fear and doubt about science. Both Vani Hari and Joe Mercola owe EWG a huge debt for preparing the culture for their zany brand of scare-mongering. EWG knows that, so they have set out to create more just like them. Their strategy is to cultivate a network of bloggers to engage women, especially moms, and expand the reach of EWG content.(1)
Women in science just did a giant face palm reading that anti-science groups think their whole gender is easy prey for junk science, and that bearing a child somehow means a woman becomes more likely to kick evidence to the curb and embrace the environmental shamanism promoted by groups like EWG.
Writing in Salon, Jenny Splitter is having none of it. Her indictment of EWG due to its exploitation of the general public -- and especially women -- is both scathing and hilarious. When she writes, "And the cherry on top of the placenta smoothie was that I was living in San Francisco at the time, so I was surrounded by plenty of like-minded parents in real time too" -- it resonates with mainstream America because coastal cities are known as a nexus for anti-science beliefs.
But there should also be serious concern among their believers, especially in a culture that also believes if you take donations from any group that's not a liberal foundation, you are a Corporate Shill. EWG gets no criticism at all from partisan attack dog SourceWatch even though (bold mine) ...
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.
Now they have announced they are willing to "certify" specific brands, in an even more direct way than they have in the past. Just pay a fee. It is not new for organic companies, everyone wants to sell a sticker if you fill out some paperwork and your check will clear, but they have seen the success of groups like Non-GMO Project Verified and want in on the action. (3)
EWG is really just engaging in a higher, bolder level of corporate activism than it has always done, the kind of thing no pro-science group would do. Like U.S. Right To Know (and unlike SourceWatch and Natural Resources Defense Council, which keeps their funding secret), they brag about their corporate entanglements. So it makes complete sense it would put its EWG Seal of Approval on "select" companies ... which will be the companies willing to pay the fee.
(1) Imagine if Monsanto or Coca-Cola engaged in that kind of conspiracy. The New York Times would be indignant, Washington Post would pay someone to write sentences like "gargling the blood of the GOP," Marion Nestle would hammer out a book skimmed from Google University. Mass hysteria would ensue.
(2) Those of us living in the saner part of California (we have codespeak for it -- "I live East of the 5" -- as a way of revealing not everything you say will be a microaggression) know exactly what she is talking about. Progressive, wealthy neighborhoods are loci of anti-science beliefs. Cults in Texas aren't as locked into a belief system as residents of Pacific Heights.
(3) EWG non-gmo certified rock salt could be on the market? Choices, choices...if you don't know what a gene or an organism is anyway.