Dr. Mehmet OzI’ve been trying to figure out what the campaign to demonize Dr. Mehmet Oz is all about. In the latest effort to marginalize the television personality/surgeon as a quack as opposed to an open-minded medical expert, ten prominent physicians wrote a letter to Columbia University’s president, asking that Dr. Oz be removed from the faculty there. 


For ten physicians to gang up on a colleague this way is a very big deal. Doctors are like cops—they stick together and almost never criticize each other publicly, even if they know a colleague screwed up a medical procedure. So when they decide to throw one of their own to the wolves, you know that they and their backers have to be very upset. 


In recording his television show Tuesday (for Thursday showing), Dr. Oz vowed he “will not be silenced” in “our quest to make America healthy.”  Good for him.


The only thing I can figure out is that America’s corporate-medical complex is seriously threatened by the tide of public awareness and upset about genetically modified food, and the demands for labeling of such food (which is what Dr. Oz has asked for). I did some exploration of his views on other corporate-medical hot buttons—vaccinations and raw milk, for example—and Dr. Oz has toed the party lines on those matters (even though he’s interviewed guests who have different views). 


The timing is interesting, and understandable. If I were a Big Food or Big Pharma executive, I’d be worried as well, especially after what I heard and saw in Los Angeles this past weekend.  


Los Angeles has long been a foodie paradise, a place where the latest food trends are on full display, in advance of the rest of the country. Now it seems as if every other restaurant and food truck explicitly promises not only non-GMO food, but also  that it is locally produced, the meat grass-fed, and the chickens pastured. Outdoor farmers markets, making the same promises, are carried on year-round. 


Dr. Oz was a major topic of conversation at a health conference I attended and spoke at this past weekend (the “Take Back Your Health” conference), and it was just one of a number going on around L.A. I presume at most of the others, the tone on GMOs, vaccinations, and sustainable farming was similar—about the desire for choice. 


As if to highlight the exploding interest in good food, one of the exhibitors at this conference included yet another documentary producer promoting a film about the benefits of sustainable farming; the producer, Loreto di Cesare, has launched a Kickstarter campaign that in its first week raised more than half of its targeted $10,000. 


Diana Reeves, founder of GMO Free USA, told the conference that her organization’s Facebook posts reached 9.8 million people last week. It has been carrying on a campaign to boycott Kellogg’s cereals for persisting with GMO ingredients, and she proudly pointed out that the company has had seven consecutive quarters of declining sales and earnings.


Her organization, along with others, is pushing for labeling of GMO ingredients in all foods—in other words, for the inclusion of information on food labels that will enable consumers to make the choice of whether to include GMOs in their diets. This is a notion the major food makers have been resisting tooth and nail. 


A couple other notable presentations at the conference: 


On vaccinations: Victoria Bloch, a Weston A. Price chapter leader (and one of the “Rawesome Three” defendants in 2011) provided a detailed overview of the mushrooming use of vaccines in children. From four in the 1950s, to 17 now, which translates into 33 doses. She joined the chorus of concern being expressed that children’s immune systems were being “overloaded” at a young age, beginning in infancy. Like others, she advocated choice—that parents be encouraged to space immunizations out, perhaps leave some out…in other words, have a choice, rather than have immunizations mandated for their children. 


On sustainable farming: Gary Cox of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund said the bulk of the legal action is coming on the local level, in the form of zoning actions against would-be sustainable farmers. Federal and state actions against raw dairy farmers have tailed off over the last few years, he said, likely because of FTCLDF’s presence. Municipalities have taken up the slack by using zoning laws to challenge people trying to farm rural and suburban tracts—with chickens, goats, or sheep. 


Once again, the issue comes down to choice, Cox suggested. People should always have the option to turn land into productive agriculture, rather than being placed in a position of having to fight  “zoned”  designations as if they prohibit agriculture. 



My sense is the corporations and their docs are too late to head off Dr. Oz, and the millions of consumers he influences. There’s an old saying in business that “the customer is always right.” In that spirit, I’ll just say that it’s never ever a good idea to fight with your customers, no matter how big and powerful you think you are. Your customers (or, increasingly, your ex-customers in the case of the Big Food corporations) can bring you down to size pretty darn quickly.