Letter to Dr. Oz Show Producers by Bruce Chassy, PhD

5 October 2012

Greg Tufaro, producer
Brook Jacobsen, producer
Dr. Oz Show
Zoco Productions, LLC/ Harpo Studios
110 N. Carpenter Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Dear Greg and Brook:

I am following up on my conversations and previous correspondence with you regarding the plans by the Dr. Oz Show to air health and safety claims by Jeffrey Smith about agricultural biotechnology (GMOs) and food issues. As discussed, I was unable to participate in your program due to a family conflict. After consulting with other colleagues who were similarly approached by you and those who did participate, however, I am compelled to again voice my concerns regarding the potential violation by Dr. Oz of medical ethics and high risk of misrepresentation of human health information by Dr. Oz, Zoco Productions and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios on this issue.

As a public sector scientist, researcher and academic administrator with more than 40 years experience, I am appalled that any medical professional would give a platform to the likes of Mr. Jeffrey Smith to impart health information to the public. Mr. Smith has no accredited or formal education in any health, nutrition, or other related science fields. Research into Mr. Smith’s credentials reveals that his only professional experience prior to taking up his crusade against biotechnology is as a ballroom dance teacher, yogic flying instructor and political candidate for the Maharishi cult’s natural law party. The fact that Mr. Smith was even allowed to appear on stage on a nationally broadcast television health-oriented program is hard to believe; hearing from my colleagues who did participate that Dr. Oz referred to Smith as a “scientist” during the program taping is an egregious misrepresentation.

Simply put, Mr. Smith’s health, environmental and safety claims about biotechnology have no basis whatsoever in medicine or science. Thousands of published and peer reviewed studies conducted over the past thirty-plus years contradict his claims and bizarre hypotheses associating health dangers linked to foods derived using biotechnology production methods. This is corroborated by such respected scientific and medical authorities as the American Medical Association, World Health Organization with the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Institute for Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association. Regulatory bodies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Food Safety Commission of Japan (FSCJ) all confirm this safety.

Further, our correspondence and conversations, as well as those you had with other academic colleagues who were invited to participate, suggests you engaged in questionable and misleading tactics to secure our participation on your show. When we raised concerns about past treatment of academic participants discussing biotechnology on the Dr. Oz show, you stated “I understand the suspicion and the reservations any scientist would have after the last go-round. My best assurance can only come from the fact that producing a show in that vein isn’t something I agree with at all. That producer is no longer with us. I’m not into producing surprises or blindsiding anybody…” Yet, neither you nor Ms. Jacobsen disclosed that Lisa Oz, the show’s co-producer and wife of Dr. Oz, was the narrator for Mr. Smith’s video attacking biotechnology and an active campaigner for the Proposition 37 efforts in California.

As to you assurances that there would be no surprises or “bait-and-switch” tactics involved, I was informed that “deals were cut” between Dr. Oz and other participants like Organic Valley CEO Gary Hirshberg to prevent the scientists from fully participating in the program. These back-room deals caused changes to the described format for the interviews as laid out by you in advance of the program. Yet, apparently Mr. Hirshberg objected to appearing side-by-side with actual scientists as he made his claims but was allowed to remain on stage while they made their rebuttals. Further, Dr. Oz allowed Mr. Smith to re-tape his segment after the scientists spoke in response to his segment’s initial taping and after they had left the program.

You assured me and the other invited participants that the show was interested in a fair hearing of views from all sides with no pre-judged conclusions. Yet, I also learned that Dr. Oz practiced a pre-scripted conclusion to the program warning viewers to avoid the risks of GMOs by purchasing only organic foods prior to interviewing the scientists and hearing both sides. Similarly, during the taping of the Dr. Oz Show you incorporated graphics provided by Jeffrey Smith implying correlated health risks with the use of biotechnology crops that are simply not based in any medical science or study. These graphics are crude and inaccurate representation which will mislead people to believe biotechnology crops are associated with these diseases – the very same representation could be done showing, for example, that as viewership for the Dr. Oz show rose so did incidents of these diseases, suggesting watching your show is a health risk. Neither is of course true. Biotechnology crops are as safe, if not safer, than their conventional and organic counterparts.

All of this would lead any reasonable person to believe your representations were disingenuous and that this show was orchestrated theater on behalf of Mr. Smith and the Proposition 37 campaign. Since Mr. Smith and his collaborator, Dr. Oz show co-producer Lisa Oz, are active proponents behind the Proposition 37 California Ballot Initiative, the program you intend to air on the Fox network prior to the November 6, 2012 election appears by all manners to be an orchestrated and essentially in-kind donation of a free campaign commercial for this initiative. Worse, Dr. Oz will be amplifying thoroughly debunked and potentially dangerous nutrition and health-related advice to his viewing audience.

Your assurances and the tactics of the Dr. Oz show fall short of even the lowest standards of media and medical ethics.


Bruce Chassy, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Department of Food Science & Nutrition
University of Illinois


Bill Becker, General Counsel
Harpo Studios
110 N. Carpenter St.
Chicago, IL 60607

Michael Angus, Executive Vice President & General Counsel
Fox Broadcasting
2121 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Zackery P. Morazzini, General Counsel
California Fair Political Practices Commission
428 J Street, Suite 620
Sacramento, CA 95814

Gary Schwitzer, Publisher Health News Review
The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships
USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
The Alhambra, 1000 South Fremont Avenue, Unit 83, Building A-0, Office 0204
Alhambra, CA 91803Bruce M. Chassy, PhD

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