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Environmental Working Group: Known for scare campaigns, EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Last Updated: March 29, 2017

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Environmental Working Group


Keywords: Environmental Working Group, EWG, Ken Cook, Scott Faber, Heather White

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Should you be concerned about trace pesticides on foods, fruits and vegetables?

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The Environmental Working Group (EWG) was founded in 1992 as a ‘think tank’ promoting original research to pushing back against corporations engaged in everything from energy to food production. It is well-known as a promoter of organic products (specifically “pesticide-free” and “GMO-free”), and earns that label by issuing annual “dirty dozen” reports complaining about “hidden” pesticides in foods. (Its bottom-line advice is consistently that consumers should buy organic whenever possible.) They derive financial support and board leadership for their activities, in part, from the Tides Center. EWG has been called the “Environmental Worrying Group” by watchdog group the Center for Organization Research & Education. [1]

HISTORY

According to their IRS charitable organization tax filings, “The Environmental Working Group (EWG), founded in 1993, fills a niche in the environmental community by focusing its unique strategy on toxics, agriculture and western lands issues. Our effective advocacy efforts are bolstered by extensive web databases and a 500,000-person email list, which have become major forces in online information distribution. EWG is a national organization with headquarters in Washington, DC, and offices in Oakland, CA and Ames, Iowa.”

ORGANIZATION

Environmental Working Group

Washington, DC office: 1436 U Street, NW, Suite 100, Washington, DC 20009

Website: www.ewg.org
EIN: 52-2148600
Phone: (202) 667-6982 Facsimile: (202) 232-2592
Reported revenues/ expenditures in 2012: $7.4 million/ $7.3 million.
Contact: Ms. Scott Mallan [email protected], VP Finance
Voting board members: 15 (2012)
Employees: 66 paid (2012); 16 volunteers (2012)

Ruling Year: 1999

EWG ACTION FUND

1436 U St Nw Ste 101, Washington, DC 20009
EIN: 02-0612599
Phone: 202-667-6982
Ruling Year: 2003
Revenue/Expenditures 2012: $164,000/ $146,000 2013: $90,000/ $88,000
Voting board members: 3
Paid employees: 10 volunteers 3 (all shared staff with EWG, EWG Action Fund notes it has no paid employees of its own)

The EWG Action fund notes “Water and agriculture” and “Toxics and Human Health” as key priority areas.

PEOPLE

  • Ken Cook, President (paid $250,000 2012 and tax returns note he was granted first class travel allowance through 2013.
  • Heather White, Executive Director/Chief of staff (paid $225,000 2012)
  • Scott Mallan, VP Finance (paid $160,000 2012)
  • Scott Faber, SVP and executive director/campaign manager of Just Label It. A native of Massachusetts he holds a J.D. Form Georgetown Law. Was prior VP for federal affairs at Grocery Manufacturers Association and farm policy campaign manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. From 1993-2000 he was senior director for public policy for American Rivers. (paid $210,000 2012)
  • Craig Cox, SVP agriculture (paid $185,000 2012)
  • Chris Campbell, VP IT (paid $165,000 2012)
  • Alexander Formuzis, VP Communications (paid $165,000 2012)
  • Bill Allayaud, Director Government Affairs California (paid $135,000 2012)
  • Nils Bruzelius, Executive Editor & VP Publications (paid $140,000 2012)
  • Elain Shannon, Editor in Chief (paid $140,000 2012)
  • Renee Sharp, VP Research (paid $130,000 2012)
  • Mike Casey, consultant (Tiger Comms)
  • Aman Anderson, web designer
  • Dave Andrews, senior scientist
  • Jocelyn Babuscio, vice president of development and online engagement
  • Katherine Baird, executive assistant to Ken Cook
  • Melanie Benish, Stabile law fellow
  • Emily Cassidy, biofuels research analyst
  • Dean Clark, web developer
  • Thomas Cluderay, general counsel
  • Julia Cohen, senior director of external engagement
  • Johanna Congleton, senior scientist
  • Cailey Doran, email marketing associate
  • Brett Dorow, human resources
  • Steven Drace, director of private sector engagement
  • Libby Foley, policy analyst
  • Christina Frenzel, digital media manager
  • Samara Geller, database analyst
  • Colleen Hutchings, senior director of online fundraising and engagement
  • Emily Ion Kosuge, director of strategic partnerships
  • Mary Ellen Kustin, senior policy analyst
  • Mike Lavender, policy analyst
  • Brett Lorenzen, coordinator, Mississippi River Project
  • Helen Lucey, special assistant to the executive director
  • Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst
  • Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research
  • Aya Matsumoto, development assistant
  • Ashley McCormack, manager, partnerships and outreach
  • Rachel Niemerski, policy associate
  • Nicole Oliver, foundation coordinator
  • Katie Peacor, web designer
  • Sean Perrone-Gray, senior analyst
  • Paul Pestano, analyst
  • Jason Rano, director of government affairs
  • Soren Rundquist, landscape and remote sensing analyst
  • Sara Sciammacco, vice president of communications
  • Tina Sigurdson, staff attorney
  • Kathryn Ulerich, bookkeeper
  • Ty Yalniz, web designer

Board members:

  • Carol McDonnell, chair
  • Ami Aronson
  • David Baker
  • Jennifer Caldwell
  • Ken Cook
  • Rob Fetherstonhaugh
  • Christine Gardner
  • Melissa Hughes
  • Dr. Mark Hyman
  • Dr. Harvey Karp
  • Nina Montee Karp
  • C. J. Kettler
  • Nina Montée Karp
  • Elise Museles
  • Randy Paynter
  • Drummond Pike
  • William G. Ross, Jr.
  • Kim Rozenfeld
  • Serena Torrey Roosevelt
  • Laura Turner Seydel
  • Francesca Vietor

EWG Action Fund board

  • Robyn O’Brien, chair
  • Steve Damato, treasurer
  • Heather White, secretary (Paid by EWG, not action fund)

CAMPAIGNS / ACTIVITIES

  • Ag Biotech Advocacy Category: Secondary
  • Key personnel: Ken Cook, Craig Cox, Drummond Pike, Mike Casey
  • 2008 revenue/expenses: $3,489,108/ $5,061,058
  • 2013 revenue expenses: $7.8M/ $7.8M
  • Primary income sources: Foundations, Contributions (individuals, corporate), Endowment
  • 501c3

In 2012 EWG paid DC lobbyists Mehlman, Vogel, Castagnetti $105,000 and DC political consultants Anne Lewis Strategies LLC $90,4000.

Anti-GMO

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has expressed concern about the safety of GMOs both at the dinner table and in the fields. Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president of government affairs has argued that it’s wrong to frame the debate around the technology of genetic modification. To him the debate should be about what consumers are entitled to know, broadly, about their food.[2]

EWG runs the Just Label It campaign led by Scott Faber out of the EWG Washington offices funded by organic industry marketing partners.

EWG has been at the forefront on efforts to enact a law that will require mandatory labeling of food with GMOs. It has lobbied both local and the federal government to enact laws to this effect. In September 2014, it released a scathing report[3] that attacked the anti-label movement, which included food and biotechnology companies. The report claimed that these groups spent a whopping $27.5 million in 2013 to fight off efforts to enact labeling laws.

One example: “Commodity crop corn used for animal feed and biofuels is almost all produced with genetically modified (GMO) seeds, as is some sweet corn sold for human consumption. Since GMO sweet corn is not labeled as such in US stores, EWG advises those who have concerns about GMOs to buy organic sweet corn.” EWG enjoys strong reputational capital among news organizations and on Capitol Hill. They are an infrequent creator of content or campaigns which solely focus on agricultural biotechnology; while they frequently include “GMO” references in other campaign activities.

Clean Water

EWG has initiated campaigns targeting agriculture as a major source of alleged pollution of waterways and groundwater.

FUNDING SOURCES

EWG runs the Just Label It campaign funded by the organic and natural product industry, which provides a major portion of the EWG budget.

AFFILIATIONS

Just Label It Campaign – organic industry lobbying initiative housed at EWG

CRITICISMS

The Center For Consumer Freedom takes EWG to task for food-related ‘scaremongering’ http://www.consumerfreedom.com/2013/10/5-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-environmental-working-group/

Resources

Environmental Working Group Facebook page

Environmental Working Group on Twitter

References

  • mem_somerville

    Robyn O’Brien? Oh, really? Never heard her disclose that relationship. Fascinating.