Farm Press Blog

Environmental Working Group (EWG) at it again

  • Nonprofit, non-tax paying EWG protests grant to California food producers to be used to correct EWG misinformation.

This time the radical, malicious Environmental Working Group (EWG) is complaining about an $180,000 federal specialty crop grant for use in countering misinformation and outright lies coming from groups like EWG.

The money was awarded to the Alliance for Food and Farming, a Watsonville, Calif., trade association representing more than 50 grower and agricultural trade organizations. The grant is a very small part of California’s recently announced $17.5 million share of the USDA’s Specialty Crops Block Grant program.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) said the grant was awarded to publicly ”correct the misconception that some fresh produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues. Claims by activist groups about unsafe levels of pesticides have been widely reported in the media for many years, but have largely gone uncontested. Continued media coverage of this misleading information is damaging to producers of California specialty crops and may also have a negative impact on public health. Utilizing sound science backed by a team of nutrition and toxicological experts, the Alliance for Food and Farming will seek to provide the media, the public and various target audiences with information about the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal is to generate more balanced media reporting and change public perception about the safety of produce when it comes to pesticide residues.”

EWG says that is a waste of taxpayer’s money. Of course, as a non-profit, EWG does not pay taxes and therefore no one can waste its money.

EWG calls the grant it “a slap in the face of California’s rapidly-advancing organic agriculture sector,” said Ken Cook, president and founder of EWG.

Cook seems to delude himself and confuse others by calling this an organic versus conventional issue. It is not. It is a truth versus lies issue.

“The state should think twice about using U.S. taxpayers’ money to attempt to give chemical-dependent industrial farming a competitive edge over organics,” Cook says. He goes on spewing half-truths and lies from there.

Let’s talk taxes and taxpayers and money. This malevolent news release is another example of the fear mongering EWG uses for one selfish purpose — to raise big bucks.

According to,EWG has overseen a Reign of Error lasting more than two decades.”

This includes the annual “dirty dozen” list of what EWG claims with its pseudoscience are the most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables. It is an annual disservice to agriculture and the consumer. On the surface, it is blatantly false.

According to Aboutcash, “There’s really only one thing you need to know about the Environmental Working Group when it comes to their studies of toxins: 79 percent of members of the Society of Toxicology say EWG overstates the health risk of chemicals.”

EWG is a “nonprofit organization that has learned how to turn public panic into a stream of hefty donations … by ginning up outrage that causes families needless worry and does incalculable damage to honest industries. Hyperbole, it seems, is big business — last year the EWG raised more than $6 million.”

And as a nonprofit, EWG paid no taxes on the money.

According to EWG’s 990 tax forms, the group’s total revenue was more than $6.2 million for 2008. Over $3.2 million of that was distributed to the group’s board members: $219,401 to President Kenneth Cook; $179,218 to Executive Director Richard Wiles; and $150,226 to Director of Research Jane Houlihan. Five more board members racked up six figure salaries. Another $2 million was distributed to other employees, and almost $300,000 was put into pension plans and other benefits packages.

Almost half of EWG’s income goes for salaries and benefits. That is a very lucrative nonprofit scam.

EWG raised $6 million of the $6.2 million  from various philanthropies. Most of these are tax dodges for the wealthy.

These nonprofit tax avoidance scams cost you and me plenty of money. We have to pay for the entire public infrastructure that keeps them going. And the most galling of all is that taxpayers must pay legal fees for these groups when they file frivolous and harassing lawsuits.

Let’s set the record straight about wasting taxpayer money.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Karen Hurtubise (not verified)
on Sep 27, 2010
Your article allows me to peer into views of mainstream, government supported corporate agriculture. We have a petrochemical based agriculture in trouble. We operate a small non-certified "organic" raspberry farm. I find your description of this Environmental group intriguing. I will probably like them very much and thank you for helping me find another ally. It is wearisome to meet the violence and negative perforatives regularly used to discount efforts of small farms like ours and the groups trying to get us some information. I notice Dupont and their miracle of science supporting your page. Everyone but Chris and Slate wear ties. I am too busy til winter to investigate your ideas but I will pay attention to your attacks and accusations of taxpayer waste. Lots to share about waste, including from farmers we know who dislike the abuse of subsidies on corn and soybeans.
Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 20, 2013


The EWG group does in fact spread lies and now that New York has delayed once again natural gas drilling we will suffer as tax payers and land owners who want to grow our crops and live free.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jun 5, 2015

EWG appears on my research to be a pass through charity which sifts grant and donation funding from large and well known foundations down to a range of "activist groups", including Just label it has partners who together comprise nearly the entirety of "big organic". Their activities would thus be as much lobbying for their "partners' as it would be public welfare, Just Label It is under that umbrella of the Organic Trade Organization (I believe) which, although categorized as a 401 C4 is concerned with promotional (mostly in the form of negative ads) rather than civil welfare.

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