Greenwashing 101

SpinningFoodA new report on the expensive art of greenwashing (PR tactics designed to convince you that black is white, in the world of health, agriculture and foodstuffs) has been released by Friends of the Earth. It reveals many interesting ways agri-food industries seek to manipulate public opinion. The aim is to continue and expand profitable business practices that are, in a nutshell, killing us and deadening the future of a planet on which future generations – of all species – will struggle to survive.

“Rather than responding to changing market demands by shifting the way they do business, these companies are trying to preserve market share and win key policy battles by using “tobaccostyle” PR tactics.”

Mainly it’s a story of money. Great big buckets of money, poured on an overwhelmed and confused public, at the expense of the health of our soil, our ecosystem and our water supplies. Basically it’s encouraging an utter violation of our duty as custodians of this planet.

Here are the key strategies identified in the report, as used by pro-industry campaigners. Please watch for them, and teach your friends and family how to spot them. (Learning basic internet research is a key skill for untangling the source of questionable information sources. The authors of misinformation count on public apathy and gullibility in order to land their messages.)

  • Deploying front groups who appear to be independent, but are in fact made up of industry or PR professionals to promote their messages with consumers and the media
  • Targeting female audiences by trying to co-opt female bloggers, elevating female spokespeople and promoting messages to disparage “organic moms” as elitist bullies
  • Infiltrating social media and creating seemingly independent social media engagement platforms, such as GMO Answers, that are in fact run by industry PR firms
  • Attacking the credibility of scientists, advocates, consumers and journalists who raise concerns about industrial food production’s methods and impacts
  • Partnering with prominent media venues on “native advertising” disguised as real news content that promotes industry messages
  • Using third-party allies to foster an echo chamber of carefully crafted talking points to frame the story of food in favor of chemical intensive industrial food production.

I would encourage anyone involved in education at any level – including those of us trying to educate our elected officials – to read the report and circulate its findings as widely as possible.

It hardly bears repeating, but I will do so anyway, that ample evidence exists, and is building, on the disastrous effects of industrial operations on our ability to feed ourselves well and sustainably. I refer you to my Eco-Nutrition page on this website for a list of resources which do not bear the taint of agri-food PR budgets.

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