In days past, we’ve browsed the virtual shelves of Thrive Market and found astounding examples of hypocrisy: deodorant containing aluminum sold by the very store that links this combination to cancer,1 and products containing derivatives of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), although Thrive’s raison d’être seems to be the eradication of all GMO crops from the face of the Earth.2
Mentioned, but not deeply explored in those articles, is that Thrive Market is being aggressively pushed by the pseudoscientific Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG, although they apparently do no actual scientific research, have set themselves up as an authority on food and product safety. You’ll often see EWG’s “research” quoted by online vendors such as Thrive.
There’s a problem here: a vicious circle in which money, advertising, and pseudo-research circulate in a complex “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” cycle. It goes something like this:
- Organic companies like Bronner’s and Organic Valley donate to EWG to fund their work.
- EWG publishes non-original, cherry-picked “research” that makes their donors’ products look superior.
- The donors offer their wares on ThriveMarket.com.
- EWG launches an email campaign pushing Thrive, touting membership discounts, and citing cherry-picked “research” to guarantee product safety.
- Thrive cites EWG as an authority when advertising ThriveMarket.com products, claiming superiority over competing brands.
- Feeling assured by all the supposed research, the unsuspecting public purchases the donors’ products from Thrive. After Thrive gets its cut, proceeds from the sales go back to the companies who donated to EWG… who promoted Thrive. Dizzy yet?
- To add insult to injury, the public doesn’t realize many of the products they’re buying contain the same ingredients they were told were harmful.1,2
To be honest, I get confused reading it too. Here’s a pretty picture: (click to enlarge):
How widespread is the problem? It’s hard to say. The Environmental Working Group is tight-lipped about their donors, publishing only a small subset online.3 Not all of the organic companies listed on the EWG funding page can be found selling in the Thrive Market (yet),4,5 but that’s just one store, and, as we’ll see in upcoming article, this isn’t the only way EWG props up companies who are friendly to their cause.
Thrive’s love affair with the Environmental Working Group is evident in the rampant quoting of EWG’s so-called research throughout the market’s web site,6 and, to be blunt, when watching Thrive founder Gunnar Lovelace praise EWG President Ken Cook and his company’s work, you want to tell tell the two to get a room.7 Really guys. Please.
This tangled web will get even more complicated in upcoming days, as we look at the financial involvement of faux “consumer advocate” organizations such as U.S. Right to Know and the Organic Consumers Organization which, via the Environmental Working Group, have a tenuous link to Thrive Market. The upshot of all this is that it’s easy to sell products when you create your own astroturf-like research research and advocacy organizations and quote them liberally. Sadly, not enough of mainstream American media is aware this is happening.
Tomorrow though, we’ll return to the lighter side and look at a rather horrific blunder by Thrive: after warning shoppers to avoid a particular form of cosmetic ingredient and claiming their store is free and clear of it… [insert ominous sounds of thunder].
(1) Thrive Market’s “Toxic” Deodorant: I Smell A Rat (Bad Science Debunked)
(2) Anti-GMO Thrive Market Sells GMOs (Bad Science Debunked)
(3) Partial List of EWG Funding Sources
(4) Dr. Bronner on Thrive Market
(5) Organic Valley on Thrive Market
(6) Thrive Market, Articles Tagged “EWG”
(7) Thrive Market: What You Can Do To Shed Light On Bizarre Ingredients In Your Food
Thrive, Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Valley, and EWG product/screen snapshots are used in strict accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, commonly known as “fair use law”. This material is distributed without profit with the intent to provide commentary, review, education, parody, and increase public health knowledge.