For the one or two people on the continent who don’t know Dr. Mehmet Oz, he is a respected cardiothoracic surgeon with his own TV show. With almost 1000 shows under his belt, Dr Oz has been dubbed ‘America’s doctor’ . He's known for his belief that western medicine can be reductive focussing on illness instead of health; he supports the need for a deeper connection with patients; he has given considered opinions on alternative approaches to cure and prevent illness; and yes, sometimes he's gone afield of what many professionals in his field would consider sound medical advice. But then again he would be the first to say his show is not about medicine per se, it's about self empowerment. He is also a vocal advocate for labelling GMO foods and believes glyphosate, an agrochemical used in the biofood industry, is a serious threat to public health. That philosophy, perhaps more than any other, has placed him in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.
Dr. Oz holds the surgery department vice chair at Columbia University. He has held that position for over 20 years. Recently he received a letter from 10 doctors calling on Columbia to fire him from his post. The letter states his “presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.” and “We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.” They claim the television personality has "repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops”….. and there you have the first hint.
The New York Times pointed out that some of the doctors who signed the letter are connected with the American Council on Science and Health, a pro-industry advocacy group that supports genetically modified foods. To be clear, Oz does not claim that GMO foods are dangerous, but he does believe that they should be labeled, just like they are in over 64 countries around the world. His response to the letter was swift.
In the past, Oz has had his share of controversy. One questionable claim about a weight-loss product landed him in front of a Senate subcommittee hearing. But this accusatory letter carries the invisible watermark of the chemical barons who control the GMO seed and agrochemical industry. Aside from their questionable genetic practices and controversial biofood ingredients, their best selling agrochemical, glyphosate, is under attack. At one time the industry claimed glyphosate was as safe as aspirin which undoubtedly helped the herbicide become the world's best selling herbicide. But in March 2015, a division of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. Argentina’s union of 30,000 doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, issued a statement in support of that decision. Argentina is currently the second biggest producer of transgenic BT soy in the world. To pay back its foreign debt, the country adopted an industrial agriculture export model and the use of glyphosate skyrocketed at great cost to the country's fieldworker health. These hardworking citizens have experienced a three-fold increase in birth defects and cancer rates increased fourfold and many health professionals and independent scientists believe glyphosate is implicated.
Dr Oz became a vocal opponent to glyphosate in response to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approval to a newly engineered bioseed and chemical spray called Enlist Duo. Created by Dow AgroSciences to combat weed resistance, the two active ingredients, 2,4-D and glyphosate, are linked to a higher risk of contracting non-Hodgkins lymphoma as well as other serious health issues. Despite all the input from independent scientists around the world about the dangers of 2,4-D, the EPA gave the green light to Dow for commercial use in 2014. Canadian officials approved commercial application of Enlist Duo in 2013.
Dr Oz started a petition on his TV show calling on President Obama to block approval of the highly toxic herbicide. The petition garnered over 115,000 signatures. That's the second hint as to why Dr Oz is such a threat. Oz is not only smart, he's influential and that's a combination that threatens an industry that makes billions in profits annually by selling questionable chemicals.
These chemical barons have a long history of trying to silence those who are vocal and influential. As far back as the early 1990s, they were casting a wide net to suppress independent science and freedom of speech.Dr. Arpad Pusztai, is a Biochemist and Nutritionist In the early 90s, he was awarded a $3 million grant by the UK government to design the system for safety testing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Within 10 days, the test mammals that were fed GMO fodder developed pre-cancerous cell growth, smaller testicles, partially atrophied livers and damaged immune systems.
Dr Pusztai saw a public health crisis in the making. Worried that GM foods may have similar affects on humans, with permission from his director, Pusztai gave an interview on TV and expressed his concerns. He became an instant hero at his institute -- for two days.
A phone call from the pro-GMO prime minister’s office to the institute’s director resulted in the firing of Pusztai. He was threatened with a lawsuit if he continued to speak out about his concerns and his team was dismantled. Then the smear campaign started. The Institute that had employed him for 35 years, together with the biotech industry that funded research at the Institute and the UK government launched a campaign to destroy Pusztai’s reputation. Eventually, the British parliament lifted his gag order and his research was published in the prestigious Lancet, but not before he and his wife lost their jobs, their livelihood and their reputations.
Embryologist Andrés Carrasco told a leading Buenos Aires newspaper about the results of his research into Roundup, the glyphosate herbicide sold in conjunction with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops. His studies of amphibians suggested that the herbicide could cause defects in the brain, intestines, and hearts of fetuses. His concern was the amount of Roundup used on GM soy fields was as much as 1,500 times greater than that which created the defects. The biotech industry mounted an attack on Carrasco, ridiculing his research and even issued personal threats.
Epidemiologist Judy Carman investigated outbreaks of disease for a state government in Australia. She knew that health problems associated with GM foods may take decades to discover because the onset of disease is not acute - it's chronic. Moreover, the short-term animal feeding studies usually did not evaluate “biochemistry, immunology, tissue pathology, gut function, liver function, and kidney function” and were too short to test for cancer or reproductive or child health.
Carman was awarded a grant by the Western Australia government to conduct a long-term animal feeding studies on GMOs. GMO advocates demanded the grant be withdrawn. When the Western Australian Government refused to withdraw the grant, opponents successfully interfered with Carman’s relationship with the university where she was to do the research.
In February 2004, prominent virologist Terje Traavik presented preliminary data at a meeting at the UN Biosafety Protocol Conference. The data demonstrated that Filipinos living next to a GM cornfield developed serious symptoms while the corn was pollinating; that genetic material inserted into GM crops transferred to rat organs after a single meal; and key safety assumptions about genetically engineered viruses were overturned, calling into question the safety of using these viruses in vaccines.
The biotech industry attacked Dr. Traavik stating he presented unpublished work. But presenting preliminary data at professional conferences is a long-standing tradition in science. The biotech industry relied on in 1999 to try to counter the evidence that butterflies were endangered by GM corn.
In 2014, the New Yorker reported Syngenta was orchestrating attacks scientists whose studies have shown atrazine to have adverse effects on the environment and/or human and animal health including Professor Tyrone Hayes, PhD, an amphibian expert at University of California, Berkeley. Hayes was contracted to determine the affects of atrazine on frogs. He discovered males exposed to this endocrine disrupter would develop eggs or ovaries in their testes, or the amphibians would turn into hermaphrodites. Further study showed that sometimes the frogs completely turned into females. When he presented the data, Hayes claimed the manufacturer, Syngenta, wanted him to manipulate the data and keep his original findings under wrap. Instead of being intimidated, Hayes started his own campaign and that put the good professor squarely in the cross hairs of the giant chemical company. Syngenta criticized Hayes' science and conduct in press releases, letters to the editor, and through a formal ethics complaint filed at University of California-Berkeley.
There's a reason the chemical barons are so quick on the draw. The market value of the agrochemical industry is $42 Billion annually. So it's little wonder these deep-pocketed corporations go to great lengths to suppress independent scientific investigation. They've been known to block independent research by withholding GM seeds and genes or threaten to withdraw funding from the universities or they resort to sullying the reputations of reputable scientists. The millions they spend on lobbying our governments is another matter entirely.
“Agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers ... Only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal.”
Scientific American, August 2009
The close ties that have developed between bio science, commerce and governments have created a protective moat around industrial agriculture. The most common claim is that they are protecting intellectual property. But the cultivation, distribution and manufacturing of food needs to be held to a higher standard than commerce. If GMO foods are as safe as the pundits claim, why not encourage independent research to support their claim? What are they trying to hide? If biofoods are safe why not label it as such - that marketing messaging should be worth millions in sales. So what do they fight labelling initiatives instead? Forty-two billion dollars in sales is certainly part of the answer. If it's labelled no one will buy it is another. Over 80% of consumers in Canada and the US want GMO ingredients listed on food labels.
People like Dr Oz is a threat because he's not only smart, he's influential. Millions of Americans and Canadians listen to his advice about cultivating conscious choice. That spells trouble for the chemical barons. The last thing they want is an audience of millions thinking for themselves and making the conscious choice about not purchasing GMO laced and pesticide infested biofoods.
Today, there is approximately 10,400 pesticides approved by the EPA on ‘conditional registration’. This fast track, toxic treadmill allows pesticide manufacturers to get products to market without fully testing all the active ingredients for health or environmental impact and that's a danger to us all.
"Over the past 30 years, more than 100,000 chemicals have been approved for commercial use in the United States. Among these are more than 82,000 industrial chemicals, 9,000 food additives, 3,000 cosmetic ingredients, 1,000 pesticide active ingredients and 3,000 pharmaceutical drugs...due to funding constraints and industry litigation, in the years since the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TCA) was passed, the EPA has been able to require safety testing on only about 200 of the 84,000 chemicals listed on the TSCA chemical inventory."
The New Puberty, 2014, Louise Green, M.D. and Julianna Deardoff, PhD