I think I’ll start a blog series titled Dr. Oz . . . Debunked, because TV’s infamous doctor is at it again, prescribing fear over fact in regards to farming and food. His latest attack posed as outrage over the potential approval of a new pesticide, but his real motives are a) ratings and b) eliminating farmers’ ability to raise crops in an efficient, environmentally sound and sustainable manner.
It was just Wednesday (September 17) that the USDA approved Dow Chemical Company’s Enlist Duo, a combination pesticide including glyphosate and 2,4-D. The Farmer’s Daughter USA did a great job explaining the what and why of Enlist Duo, so I won’t repeat that here, but would encourage everyone to read it for background.
The Dr. Oz Show must keep close tabs on agriculture, because in a few short days they had crafted a segment designed to incite a frenzied movement to block the approval of Enlist Duo and hinder farming practices on family farms. Really, this is tantamount to crying fire in a crowded theater.
I did watch the segment, and after peeling away the dramatics (wide eyes, lowered voices, prolonged pauses) and the amazing use of apocalyptic language (massive experiment, catastrophe), it isn’t hard to see that Dr. Oz needs all the smoke and mirrors he can get to hide his lack of agriculture knowledge. We’ve heard all his accusations before when he attempted to uncover the global conspiracy around GMOs.
So, here’s a short list of just some of the claims made by Dr. Oz and his panel of “experts”.
Oz Fact 1: The promotion of this show included the words “GMO pesticide”.
Clarification: A pesticide is a chemical composed of elements which make compounds. Pesticides do not have DNA, genes, chromosomes, or alleles; therefore they cannot be genetically modified. That’s junior high chemistry/biology. GMO pesticides do not exist.
Oz Fact 2: Seventy to 170 million pounds of additional pesticides will be used because of Enlist Duo.
Clarification: I’m really not sure where to begin on this. Dr. Oz didn’t offer a source for this claim and I searched quite a bit and couldn’t find one. My assumption is projections are approximately 70 to 170 million pounds of Enlist Duo will be purchased. Here’s the thing, it is just another herbicide, another option to use for weed control, another mode of action. A farmer may still choose to apply Round-Up OR will switch to Enlist Duo, but will not apply Round-Up AND Enlist Duo at the same time. It wouldn’t make sense to spend the time, money or resources to duplicate weed control efforts.
Oz Fact 3: On the same topic, one of the “experts”, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman declared that GMOs have not delivered on their promise – increased yields and reduced pesticide use.
Clarification: Genetically modified seed was never intended to increase yields. The purpose is to protect the yield. Increased yields (and they are increasing) are the result of better hybrids developed from traditional breeding efforts, precise application of fertilizers and crop protection tools, and continued understanding of soil, fertility, plants and weather. According to the Corn Farmers’ Coalition, farmers are growing five times more corn on 20 percent less land. Proving the more tools farmers have available in the fields, the better farmers they are.
On our farm, My Farmer estimates we have reduced pesticide use by half. A search of the popular science-based site The Genetic Literacy Project brings up pages of articles refuting the claim that more pesticides are being used than before the advent of GMOs. This particular post speaks directly to one of Dr. Oz’s favorite claims, ‘farmers are drowning their crop in chemicals.’
Oz Fact 4: The climax of the whole Enlist Duo segment came when Dr. Oz asked his “expert”, the founder of the website breastcancer.org about drift of pesticides near schools and our children.
I’ll let you read that again.
. . .
So, the founder of a breast cancer website is an expert on applying pesticides? Hmm.
Clarification: My Farmer attends a class and takes a four-hour test every three years to be certified to purchase AND apply pesticides on our farm. If he ever wanted to go into business and apply pesticides for other farmers, he would take an additional test. This regulatory process comes to our farmers through the EPA and is issued and administrated by the state departments of agriculture. Who is the expert?
Note: Homeowners who buy Round-Up and 2,4-D in spray bottles at Wal-Mart to banish dandelions and crabgrass from their yards and sidewalks do not need to be certified. No controls. No follow-up. No nothin’. Again, who is the expert?
Oz Fact 5: Just to make sure parents were thoroughly panicked, Dr. Oz says he is particularly frightened for our elementary school children at risk playing outside at recess in proximity to chemical drift.
Clarification: Pesticides are applied in a variety of ways and thus controlled in a variety of ways. Jenny blogs at Prairie Californian and masterfully breaks down crop protection in this easy to read list.
Applying pesticides is a science, literally. The chemistry of pesticides responds to temperature, wind and humidity in specific ways. Some are heavier than others. Some are effective for a short time and others for a longer time. Some affect certain types of weeds and others all weeds. Some, like Enlist Duo, include a special drift technology that mitigates the risk.
Applying pesticides is a wonder of technology too. With data plugged into the sprayer’s computer, we can adjust the rate of application, where it is applied and even shut off specific nozzles all while moving across the field. Certain nozzles are designed for certain applications.
This isn’t as simple as spreading feathers across a field (i.e. Dr. Oz’s attempt at demonstrating drift with feathers and a fan).
The show’s segment ends with a call to action. Dr. Oz implores his audience to sign a petition asking the EPA and the President of the United States to deny approval of Enlist Duo. While the EPA is no longer accepting public comments about Enlist Duo, you could choose to support farmers instead of Dr. Oz and encourage the EPA to give farmers another option to control weed pressure in their fields. If you the think the President has nothing going on, I suppose, you could bother him too.
Is there a petition we can sign to request that networks cancel The Dr. Oz Show? Or how about a simple request that Dr. Oz invites real experts to his stage?
Until next time and there will be a next time, this is Dr. Oz . . . Debunked.
Other good posts:
From Applied Mythology: Don’t Beleive What Dr. Oz Is Saying About An Agricultural Herbicide
From Corn Corps: Dr. Oz Is At It Again: Should You Listen To Him?
I didn’t come close to explaining the details of Enlist Duo, the new genetically modified seed on which it can be used, the regulatory process or the safety of genetically modified seed and the pesticides (if used correctly) applied. I really didn’t want to publish a book. Please refer to the links offered for additional information.