Dr. Oz Oozes Scientific Illiteracy

DrOzIt should come as no surprise that Dr. Oz, a longstanding mouthpiece for the anti-GMO movement that seeks to ban these genetically improved foods (GIFs), is ramping up his unscientific scaremongering campaign. In a recent episode of his show, Dr. Oz gravely warned viewers that genetically modified crops were the “most disturbing development… of the 21st Century.” The daytime TV host not only lacks perspective, he lacks facts: The overwhelming scientific consensus that genetically modified crops are just as safe as their conventionally grown counterparts.

Hardly a “disturbing” innovation,  biotechnology has the potential to yield enormous benefits worldwide. In developing countries, biotechnology has increased the yields of comparatively poor farmers and lowered the incidence of certain strains of disease in crops. In Western countries, like the United States, genetically modified crop technology has lowered costs for consumers and raised overall agricultural productivity.

The schlock doc’s guest was just as ill-informed as her host: Activist Zen Honeycutt, an outspoken activist against GIFs, explained that genetically engineered foods were provoking allergic reactions and rashes in her children. Honeycutt claimed that switching to an organic diet—whatever that means—alleviated these symptoms, even going so far as to suggest that these changes in diet mitigated her son’s autism. The claim that GIFs cause autism has been promoted by the anti-vaccine scaremonger, organic foods salesman, occasional Dr. Oz Show guest Joseph Mercola, and “yogic flyer” Jeffrey Smith. They are hardly reputable medical authorities, and there is no evidence that GIFs cause autism in the medical literature.

But while Oz and his guests rail against the use of pesticides to treat GIF crops (and warn of the public health dangers associated with this practice), they forget that organic products are also often treated with pesticides—sometimes even more so than conventionally grown crops—that just happen to qualify as organic.” This flies in the face of Dr. Oz’s alarmist musings that “GMOs could be ushering in a pesticide arms race.” In fact, as David R. Just of Cornell University testified before Congress:

… [T]he non-GMO alternative generally presents a greater and quantifiable health risk. GMOs are often introduced specifically to eliminate the use of pesticides or other chemical treatments that can present a health risk.

You would think Dr. Oz would have learned his lesson after a Senate panel called him out on his lack of scientific credibility earlier this year. But, alas, Dr. Oz and his comrades are still peddling hyperbolic theories that lack “the scientific muster to present as fact.”

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