My Generation
Affecting Change: Dr. Oz and the Cult of Ignorance

Affecting Change: Dr. Oz and the Cult of Ignorance

The Dr. Oz points and counterpoints have been written, but what's next when a man lies to 3 million people a day and gets paid to do so?

I'm thinking this morning about how to affect change.

Specifically, how to get Dr. Oz off the air.

Or, to at least get him to stop airing false, inflammatory shows that reveal how little he and his production staff know about production agriculture. Which has, to date, not stopped them from telling outright lies and half-truths to 3 million people on a regular basis.

We know Oz is against GMOs. He's invited anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith on his show and identified him as a scientist. Agriculture isn't the only group who noticed; The New Yorker pointed out, "Smith has no experience in genetics or agriculture and has no scientific degree from any institution."

Lesson for Oz: Pesticides don't drift like...feathers. Did we really just have to explain that?

Oz is also a chief proponent of the idea that "chemical" is a four-letter word. He was called out earlier this year by a congressional committee for false and misleading shows regarding weight loss.

This week, he aired another show, this time breathlessly telling viewers about Dow's new Enlist herbicide (which combines glyphosate and 2,4-D), "The Environmental Protection Agency is on the brink of approving a brand new toxic pesticide that you don't know about."

Among a cadre of half-truths and outright lies, he dumped a basket of yellow feathers in front of a fan on his sound stage, and called it pesticide drift. If you haven't seen this yet, I imagine your face looking just like my husband's when I told him about it. Same face he had when we watched the last Dr. Oz show on pesticides and he used a hand sprayer – live on the stage! – to douse produce with "toxic chemicals" and tell his audience that's what farmers do.

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Agriculture has, of course, responded to Monday's show. The Control Freaks weed scientists completely took down this feather/pesticide drift bit; plant pathologist Steve Savage offered a wealth of point-by-counterpoint facts on pesticide drift; Katie Pratt was swift and succinct and gracefully mastered her comment section; Illinois Corn asked why Oz is a reputable source; and Kevin Folta did not mince words with Oz: "The facts are wrong, it is not a "highly toxic chemical," it is two herbicides that have been used for a total of over 100 years. Nice job "exposing" something under public comment and scrutiny. You're a super sleuth!"

We're a few days out from the original airing of the show, and I spent some time yesterday perusing comments on the Dr. Oz Facebook. Let me assure you, that is not an uplifting place to be. Thousands and thousands of people assume he preaches the gospel truth. Despite peddling quick fix diets and "miracle" weight loss remedies, people still believe him, to the tune of 5 million Facebook followers.

This makes me crazy. Kind of like when he refers to "GMO pesticides," which is a thing that doesn't even exist. But it sure sounds scary.

And that's the point, isn't it? If people are adequately scared but trust him, they'll keep tuning in. And he'll keep raking in money.

Related: GMOs, Dr. Oz and Real Scientists

My question at this point is why? Why is he allowed to be on the air? How is this different from the old time medicine peddlers who sold snake oil and promised healing? He flat-out lies on television, and he gets paid to do it. And he's lied about agriculture over and over, including the recent pesticide drift ordeal. 

I'm curious what you think here: what can the farm community do?

My dear friend and colleague Colleen Callahan says life is about choices, not circumstances. Indeed. We as an ag community shake our fists and talk and blog about all the ways Dr. Oz is wrong and misleading people, and it has done no measurable good. He goes back on the air and says what he wants.

In the end, Oz is neither science nor health. As a society, we just cannot rubber stamp his brand of lies anymore. So I ask you: what can we do to affect change in this circumstance? 

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