By Tim Burrack: Arlington, Iowa
To find the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends followed the yellow brick road, defeated a wicked witch, and pulled back a green curtain.
To see “The Dr. Oz Show,” all you have to do is watch television on a weekday afternoon.
But somebody still needs to pull back the curtain and reveal the truth behind the nonsense.
At least that was my conclusion after catching an episode last week on genetically modified food. Although Dr. Oz made half-hearted gestures toward fair-minded balance, he let his program become a soapbox for wild accusations, unsubstantiated claims, and hysterical advice.
By the end, Dr. Oz was warning viewers not to eat any canola, corn, papayas, soy, or sugar beets grown in the United States because they may be products of biotechnology. His show turned into an infomercial for Proposition 37, a badly flawed anti-biotech ballot initiative that soon goes before California voters.
Dr. Oz is Mehmet Oz, a medical doctor who became a television celebrity for his guest appearances with Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and others. Three years ago, he launched his own show and now millions of viewers tune in.
Sometimes they receive sound medical and nutritional advice. Other times, however, they hear about quack therapies such as “energy healing” or obtain instructions on using psychics to communicate with dead people. Oz is a two-time recipient of the Pigasus Award, a tongue-in-cheek prize whose purpose is to expose media frauds and junk-science peddlers.
I’m not a physician, but my advice is only to watch Dr. Oz with a heavy dose of skepticism.
I had taken a personal interest in the October 17 show because I had been invited to appear on it, and was looking forward to describing the benefits of 21st-century agriculture to a general audience.
Alas, the producers called back and said they didn’t need me. One of the iron laws of talk-show television is that you can’t be sure you’re on until you’re actually on.
Yet I still want to say my piece. People need to know the truth about biotech crops--and much of what they heard from Dr. Oz was false.
I’ve been farming in Iowa for four decades, and I’ve seen agriculture evolve in countless ways. About 15 years ago, I started to grow GM plants. I witnessed the benefits immediately as my yields went up. I grew more food on the same land and did it with fewer chemical sprays. This is sustainable agriculture at work.
The benefits became even clearer this summer, during the drought. If it wasn’t the worst dry spell I’ve endured, it was the second-worst, following the one we suffered in 1988.
That year, I eked out just 93 bushels of corn per acre. This summer, I grew about 200, even though rainfall levels were the same.
The difference between then and now is the minimum tillage methods we use and the GM crop technology we have access to. As plants, they’re stronger, healthier, and just plain more robust. Even in terrible conditions, they produce.
If we’re going to feed a hungry world, we need crops like these--not merely for farmers like me, but for growers in the developing world.
Best of all, GM foods are completely safe. They’ve been tested and retested, winning endorsements from groups as diverse as the American Medical Association and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Only cranks refuse to recognize this overwhelming consensus. Yet one of Dr. Oz’s guests talked like a conspiracy theorist, insulting the conclusions of the AMA and UNFAO as “tobacco science” and warning of “the cover-up.”
Dr. Oz and other anti-biotech crusaders recently have tried to tout a European study that says GM foods cause cancer in rats. Yet they always fail to mention that mainstream scientists have debunked this study thoroughly. Just this week, the High Court of Biotechnology which advises the French Government said the study is flawed.
Now that’s a cover-up worthy of the Wizard of Oz.
The real agenda of Dr. Oz’s show on biotech food was political. It aimed to promote California’s Prop. 37, a poorly written initiative that threatens to raise grocery-store prices, depress innovation, and pad the pockets of trial lawyers.
Upon pulling back the curtain, we discover that Dr. Oz is no wizard. He’s a charlatan.
Tim Burrack raises corn, soybeans and pork on a NE Iowa family farm. He volunteers as a Board Member of Truth About Trade and Technology. www.truthabouttrade.org