For a while there, Dr. Oz was the natural products industry’s best friend, especially for those selling weight-loss supplements. After a season of discontent, Dr. Oz is rising again, this time as the champion of the non-GMO movement.
The battle of The American Way played out on daytime Thursday, when Dr. Oz spent the majority of his hour-long show defending himself on free speech grounds against his enemies aligned with special interests looking to buy politicians.
Dr. Oz was called in front of Congress last summer because he was pitching weight-loss ingredients with less-than ironclad research behind them, and then was subject of a letter last week asking he be dismissed from the Columbia University faculty because he’s a “quack.” He responded to critics by going all CSI on the case during his show on Thursday. He concluded that the ire of his enemies is derived from his full-throated advocacy for GMO labeling.
“I have never judged GMO foods, but just like 64 countries, we should decide,” Oz said. “At issue are the foods that you choose to put on your plates. Freedom of speech is the most fundamental right we have as Americans."
He said that the letter from 10 doctors asking for his dismissal from Columbia is questionable because many of the signators are “people with agendas” aligned with anti-GMO labeling efforts.
“These 10 doctors are trying to silence us,” he said. “We will not be silenced; we will not give in.”
His show turned from health advice to a 60 Minutes-style expose of some of the people who sent the letter to Columbia University. One, Henry Miller, was the “face and voice” for the No On Prop. 37 effort to oppose GMO labeling in California. Miller also fought smoking restrictions on behalf of Big Tobacco as a “shill for corporations.”
Another, Gilbert Ross, is a “rent-a-scientist” with the American Council of Safety and Health that corporations use to appear like an independent expert. Only Ross is a convicted felon and served time by defrauding Medicare out of $8 million.
“It’s ugly, and this is an attack against all health professionals who don’t take the party line,” said Dr. Oz guest Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of nine books on health and wellness. “We don’t necessarily have to support the most well-funded special interest industry of the day.”
Notably, Fuhrman said the media coverage of the letter-writing campaign was “sloppy, even dangerous journalism” because nobody questioned the credentials of the signators. “The media didn’t understand their agenda, they reported things that just weren’t true,” Fuhrman said. “They attack first and ask questions later.”
Does this sound familiar, oh botanical supplements industry? The exact same situation played out when the New York attorney general used a faulty test method to say that 80 percent of the material in botanical supplements at leading mainstream retailers was inert – possibly dangerous – fillers. Nobody in the media – especially the chief water-carrier, the New York Times – made mention of the faulty test methods, not even after they were exposed, and not even after the New York attorney general’s office made a deal with GNC that allowed all GNC products to go back on shelves because there was, in fact, no problem with them when they were tested appropriately.
The attempt to both discredit Dr. Oz and to silence efforts to inform consumers about how their foods are industrially produced strikes at the heart of the political strategy to oppose efforts to bring industry to heel on a range of issues.
For example, not being able to inform consumers about the GMOs in their foods is right up there with Florida’s and Wisconsin’s Republican legislation to outlaw state agencies from using the phrase “climate change” or “global warming” — as if ignorance is bliss, as if the head in the sand is a viable strategy to solve problems.
Oz talked about the Congressional legislation to overrule state efforts to label GMOs. There are currently 17 states with legislation now pending that would be “effectively blocked forever” from GMO labeling. That Congressional bill is being derisively called the DARK Act — an acronym for Deny Americans the Right to Know.
“Why does the industry oppose labeling?” asked Dr. Oz. “Glyphosate. The World Health Organization said glyphosate is ‘probably carcinogenic to humans,’ and Argentina is considering outlawing it.”
Oz started an online petition to oppose the use of this “superpesticide.” The effort has amassed 119,000 signatures so far.
“This proves that when we come together to make a change, we will make a change,” he said. “I pledge to track this bill in one of the major food controversies of our time.”
Addendum: Later in the show, Dr. Oz talked about how Kraft is removing synthetic ingredients from its foods like its eponymous mac ‘n’ cheese. And the commercials still talked weight-loss pills to fill the void since Oz said he stopped talking about them a year ago.