Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, co-founder of the game-changing Garden Professors Blog and award-winning author, happened upon a lawn-care article in Consumer Reports and didn’t like what she saw – a mash-up of garden myths and misinformation. No citations to actual research in sight. So she posted her review of the article here on the national Extension Blog with juicy quotes and snarky commentary in italics. She adds that she’d already decided to unsubscribe from the magazine after it started promoting the quackery-monger Dr. Oz, but was finally prompted to rant by their error-filled reporting on gardening – her turf.
Next, her blogging partner Dr. Jeff Gillman followed up with an Open Letter to Consumer Reports, adding his own criticisms of the article – that clove oil, the herbicide they recommend, is a proven carcinogen (not suspected or possible – proven) and targets CR’s primary mistake: “As an advocate for consumers it would be great if you could help protect them by spreading the inarguable message that organic does not necessarily mean safe.”
Surprisingly but to their credit, CR responded and Jeff’s announcement says it all: “Consumer Reports responds – and yes, they are comfortable recommending useless chemicals that might cause cancer!” But at least CR revealed the sources for the misinformation they’re spreading. Quoting Jeff:
…they provided the names of the organizations they contacted for information including “experts from the Beyond Pesticides and the Great Healthy Yard Project.” The experts themselves went unnamed. Though unnamed, they did provide the credentials of the experts from these organizations, namely that they were “two groups we’ve consulted in the past.” Wow, impressive.
Yes, Jeff is a master of snark. He continues:
I will not be renewing my subscription to Consumer Reports this year. I do not necessarily encourage you [his readers] to do the same, but I do encourage you to let them know how you feel on their Facebook page or otherwise. If you don’t, things will not change.
If Consumer Reports really wants to advocate for consumers, then let’s hold them to it.
Like climate-change-deniers always say, I’m no scientist, but I’m a fan of peer-reviewed science, as boring as that may sound. So I’m contacting CR to suggest they live up to their mission and show that they give a damn about accurate gardening information. (Here’s how to email them.)
But it looks like their failures are more widespread than in our arena. There’s the Dr. Oz problem, and reports of general brain-drain.
Update on the Garden Professors
I can also recommend Margaret Roach’s recent interview with Jeff Gillman on the subject of herbicides for her podcast – listen here or read the transcript. I’m a long-time subscriber to the podcast and am happy to report that accessing it is now easier than ever – they’re automatically loaded onto my iPhone.