because she believes they are designed to motivate people to take steps that will incidentally help support weight management. Naidenko described a number of EWG projects and how they may have common ground with obesity prevention.
For more than a decade, EWG has investigated the types of agriculture and food products that farm subsidies support. Most of these subsidies go not to small family farms but to large agribusinesses, said Naidenko. Furthermore, according to an analysis done by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), most of this government aid supports meat and dairy production, with less than 1 percent going to the production of fruits and vegetables (PCRM, 2011). “If you want those fruits and vegetables to be on plates and to be affordable, we might need to change our subsidy patterns,” said Naidenko. This is a finding that also interests fiscal conservatives, she added, who think the government should not be supporting large agribusinesses when average Americans are struggling to pay their bills.
EWG has undertaken many projects in environmental health, including projects related to the use of synthetic chemicals in food. Establishing a health link between trace amounts of pesticides or food packaging chemicals and adverse health effects is much more difficult than establishing a link between the fat content of food and obesity, Naidenko acknowledged. But some groups of people care deeply about food chemicals and are natural allies in efforts to improve the nutritional value of food.
Climate change also has a relationship to obesity because the production of some protein sources produces more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than the production of others (Hamerschlag, 2011). Combining the issues of food, health, and climate has resonated strongly with a number of audiences, Naidenko observed.
Currently, EWG’s major concern is the upcoming renewal of the Farm Bill,1 which authorizes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)2 (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), agricultural subsidies, protection of water quality from agricultural runoff, and many other major programs. EWG is recruiting not only people interested in food but also fiscal conservatives to engage in Farm Bill politics. The goal, said Naidenko, is to turn the Farm Bill into the Food Bill. Naidenko believes that this and other channels she mentioned represent an opportunity for the environmental movement to work toward a social attitude and policies that accord well with obesity prevention.