Interview: The Ecological Food Society

The founders of the Ecological Food Society discuss their for-profit business promoting organic foods and natural cleaners, and their long-term vision to transition the conventional food and consumer products industries away from additives and toxic chemicals.

| January/February 1972

  • ecological food society - DDT-free apple
    The DDT-less apple. Yours for 9 cents, from the Ecological Food Society's full page ad.

  • ecological food society - DDT-free apple

During the past year, a number of advertisements for the Ecological Food Society and its "DDT-less apple" have appeared in many of the country's leading magazines. If you've seen the ad, chances are you wondered—as we wondered — if the organization was on the level or if it was just a cover for someone out to capitalize on the "organic" food fad. 

We became doubly intrigued when Steve Brown, president of Schiff-Brown and Co. (the New York ad agency behind EFS) bitterly attacked the advertising industry for "the merciless way in which it takes advantage of the consumer." In this and later assults on Madison Avenue, Brown charged that "all advertising is basically dishonest because its nature is involved in salesmanship and salesmanship introduces irrelevant, emotional considerations into what should be purely factual decisions. It may not be legally dishonest when ad agencies SELL any and everything to absolute maximum effect, but it is often morally dishonest." 

When asked how he (president of an advertising agency) could remain in a profession for which he has such low regard, Brown answered, "I'm not posing as a saint but I do feel that I can best battle advertising's hypocritical hard sell from the inside. Don't forget that I, too, know how to SELL, which puts me in a good position to sell more natural ways of living. This can be a powerful lever with which to move legislators and manufacturers toward more ecologically sound practices." 

Surely a man with such an attitude can't be all bad. We sent Allan Richards around to find out and Allan met both Steve Brown and his partner, Victor Schiff, in EFS's New York office. 

PLOWBOY: I've read your advertisement in various magazines and have been quite curious and concerned about the Ecological Food Society. It all sounds so alluring — perhaps too alluring — since the natural food movement has already suffered from a lot of Madison Avenue bandwagoning. Can you clarify your intentions and methods of operation?

SCHIFF: There are many purposes behind EFS. The primary ones are to make the right kind of food products kind of products accessible, educate people about these products and provide services that can help produce a better environment.

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