Last week in Dublin, the Irish Medical Journal published a scathing condemnation of genetically modified (GM) food written by the authoritatively named Irish Doctors Environmental Association. The group’s director, Dr. Elizabeth Cullen, claimed that “doctors have an ethical and moral duty” to oppose the planting of GM crops and the sale of food produced through biotechnology. Thinking about the clear benefits that biotech food promises to the Third World, the economic benefits associated with modern farming, and the fact that plant gene-spicing is merely an extension of centuries of less selective cross-breeding, we came to reflect on an undeniable truth: There continues to be no shortage of kooks on Planet Earth, and more than a few of them of them have medical degrees.
Here’s a handful of similarly reality-starved activists who happen to have the letters “MD” after their names. Is it time to stop assuming that doctors, by definition, know what they’re talking about? You be the judge.
Dr. Samuel Epstein: He’s a former professor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health who claims everything from hot dogs to non-organic milk causes cancer. He’s opposed to the use of synthetic hormones to help cows produce more milk. And he sided with the Center for Science in the Public Interest in its widely debunked claim that acrylamide in potato chips and French fries is a major cause of cancer. The American Association for Cancer Research ranks him as “the least credible scientist on issues of environmental cancer.” And the American Cancer Society and the Canadian Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons have published statements debunking his false and misleading claims.
Dr. Michael Greger: He’s a full-time animal rights activist with the anti-meat Humane Society of the United States. His job is to sell vegetarianism by making unsuspecting Americans irrationally fear their food. And he’s pretty good at it. Whether it’s beef, chicken, or dairy, Dr. Greger has a scare campaign to demonize it. He’s a prominent promoter of mad cow disease fears, claiming wildly that “thousands of Americans” may be dying of it each year. He’s written an apocalyptic book about bird flu, he’s alone (aside from PETA) in insisting that the SARS virus originated on livestock farms, and he provides other animal rights activists with flimsy “evidence” about the “dangers” of drinking milk.
Dr. Jane Hightower: She’s a San Francisco physician who claimed in a 2003 paper that the majority of her patients suffer from fish-related mercury poisoning. But she hand-picked which patients’ blood to sample, her study didn’t have a control group for comparison, and she didn’t establish cause-and-effect with actual symptoms. Still, she’s one of very few doctors who insists publicly that eating fish is a roulette game — even though there’s no reliable evidence for this ridiculous position.
Dr. David Ludwig: He’s a fat-taxing, soda-hating, fear-mongering obesity warrior of the first order. In 2002 he called for governments to levy “a tax on fast food and soft drinks,” “prohibit food advertising and marketing directed at children,” and even “regulate political contributions from the food industry.” In 2004 he used a rigged scenario to “prove” that kids will eat more fast food if you put it on their plate. And this year he claimed that obesity rates were causing a massive increase in childhood Type-2 Diabetes cases — ignoring research that shows the disease is “still relatively infrequent” among children.
Dr. Jerry Vlasak: Where to begin? This long-time former spokesman for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has taken the animal rights movement’s philosophy to its logical conclusion by endorsing the murder of scientists who use animals to search for cancer cures. He serves as a mouthpiece for violent thugs and Animal Liberation Front terrorists. Just last week he told reporters that he agreed with the tactics of activists who tried to ignite a firebomb under a medical researcher’s car.