Dr. Mehmet Oz gave credence Wednesday to a controversial study that the scientific community has thoroughly discredited, much to the dismay of scientists who hoped for a fact-based discussion of genetically modified food on his syndicated TV program.
“We find these claims and corresponding graphic representations to be highly misleading and irresponsible,” said a statement published by 17 scientists, researchers, and health professionals.
In a 20-minute segment devoted to genetically modified foods, Oz interviewed a physician named Robert Bernhoft, who praised a study by the French anti-biotech activist Gilles-Eric Seralini claiming that genetically modified corn caused lab rats to grow tumors.
Dr. Oz displayed photos of the rats with enormous tumors but failed to mention that the study has been rejected as unscientific by the European Food Safety Authority and other scientific agencies and didn’t mention the fact that the type of rats used in the study typically develop tumors as they age, regardless of their diet.
“The rats shown on the Oz show are a strain that has a very high incidence of cancer, and would have developed the same proportion of cancers no matter what (they were) fed - including organic food and herbal teas, or whatever,” said Professor Jonathan Gressel of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. “If Dr. Oz is a competent medical practitioner, he surely should have known that.”
Oz also interviewed the well-known anti-biotech activist Jeffrey Smith, who claimed that a diet free of genetically modified foods is curing many people of unspecified illnesses. He offered no proof.
“Dr. Oz needs to distance himself from outrageous charlatans such as Smith,” said Dr. Steven H. Strauss, distinguished professor at Oregon State University. “It will undermine his credibility, and thus the value and trust in other information he presents.”
The only scientists on the program were Dr. Martina Newell-McGloughlin and Dr. Alison L. Van Eenennaam, both of the University of California at Davis, who explained that biotech is a modern and precise technology that produces safe and wholesome food.