Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiac surgeon and science/medicine popularizer who, with the backing of Oprah, got his own syndicated television program, The Dr. Oz Show. He’s also a bestselling author and was named by Esquire as one of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.
He’s also one of the Rock Stars of Science, an ill-conceived campaign designed to improve science communication by having scientists stand next to real rock stars, hoping that the cool will osmose between them. Here’s Dr. Oz (right) with Keri Hilson (center):
Sadly, Dr. Oz seems to have dropped the ball when teaching the public about genetically modified foods. Abbie Smith (erv) called my attention to a segment of the Dr. Oz show in which he invited Dr. Pamela Ronald, UC Davis plant pathologist, GM food expert, and coauthor (with Raoul Adamchak) of Tomorrow’s Table, to debate the safety of GM foods with two other panelists, including the GM food
wacko alarmist Jeffrey Smith. Ronald tried repeatedly to make the point that there’s no evidence that GM foods endanger human health, and to refer the viewer to university websites so that they can judge the evidence, but to no avail. Dr. Oz chimed in with the two other panelists to cast strong and unwarranted aspersions on GM foods.
Here are the three videos (15 minutes total); see in particular the segment from 4:25 to 5:00 in video 2 and 3:45 in video 3, where Dr. Oz basically claims that the data are irrelevant and we have to make judgments on GM foods more or less based on our superstititions.
The show is precisely equivalent to one in which a scientist armed with data on human-caused global warming is opposed by two denialists with no data but a lot of sand to throw in the viewers’ eyes.
Over at her website, Tomorrow’s Table, Pam Ronald laments the disaster that was this episode of Dr. Oz:
Can the audience glean that from the information presented on the show? I am afraid not.
What we do know is that after 14 years of consumption there has been not a single instance of harm to human health or the environment (and many indisputable benefits).
I did my best to refute the worst “woo woo pseudoscience” but it was difficult. I asked the producers (who were very nice by the way) to remove the scary graphics and bullet points but no luck. I argued that showing that stuff would tarnish Dr. Oz’s reputation and harm his viewers (who are now probably terrified- I can just imagine my mother-in-law taking note on all the “points” made).
I had a chance to plug some great science-based, academic, non-profit sites (bioforitifed,org, ucbiotech.org and academicsreview.org) but all of my case specific examples (reduced insecticide use in GE cotton fields, enhanced biodiversity, disease resistant papaya, Golden rice) were cut from the TV version. I guess the producers did not want to mix too much scientific evidence in there with the fantastical stuff.
Boo to Dr. Oz. I wonder if Chris Mooney, who’s been so vociferous in promoting Rock Stars of Science as a way to communicate good science to the public, will disclaim this show? After all, he’d surely do that if one of his “rock stars” hosted a show that denied global warming.
h/t: erv (go read her take).