Written by Ashley Schaeffer
The public controversy around “America’s Doctor” is heating up.
You may have noticed, for instance, the feature article in the most recent issue of New Yorker magazine titled “The Operator: is the most trusted doctor in America doing more harm than good?”
As we recently reported, Dr. Oz, a TV personality who advocates healthy living on his top-rated, Oprah-hyped TV show “The Dr. Oz Show,” kicked off 2013 by encouraging his millions of viewers to give palm oil a try for its “incomparable” nutritional virtues.
Problem is, he failed to mention that palm oil is a leading cause of rainforest destruction and orangutan extinction. This is unfortunate, as his ill-informed recommendation has inspired a palm oil buying frenzy.
What could have compelled Dr. Oz to blindly pronounce palm oil America’s miracle vegetable oil of 2013 without telling his viewers the whole story or offering any real science to back up his claims?
Consider this: The multi-billion dollar palm oil industry—best known for its role in rainforest destruction, species extinction and human rights abuses—has mounted an increasingly aggressive PR offensive to clean up its image, pesky facts be damned.
Over the past couple years the well-heeled palm oil industry has deployed it’s mafia-esque coterie of promoters, led by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) and corporate-profits-at-all-costs cheer-leader-in-chief Alan Oxley to wage a sophisticated lobbying campaign aimed at altering the negative perceptions of palm oil by re-branding the controversial commodity as sustainable, healthy, even dubbing it “nature’s gift to mankind.” Sounding familiar?
While we can’t say that Dr. Oz did what he did because he’s taking money directly from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, here are a few puzzle pieces that paint a troubling picture:
1. Bryce Wylde, the “health expert” who brought palm oil to the attention of Dr. Oz, posted a case for palm oil on his own Facebook wall—just before Dr. Oz pushed it to his audience—which was literally copied and pasted from MPOC’s PR campaign language.
2. In May 2012 MPOC hired lobbying giant Holland & Knight to challenge the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’S) science-based findings that palm-based biofuels don’t meet federal greenhouse gas standards under the renewable fuels mandate.
3. In 2011 MPOC created a TV advertisement that shamelessly promoted false statements about the virtues of palm oil to such a degree that the British Advertising Standards Authority banned it throughout the entire country.
4. Prior to MPOC’s 2011 UK ad embarrassment, in 2009, a separate magazine ad, also produced by MPOC and entitled “Palm Oil: The Green Answer,” was banned by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for making “allegations—hidden under a thin veneer of environmental concern—based neither on scientific evidence, nor, for that matter, on fact.”
5. Finally, consider this—Alan Oxley, MPOC’s biggest advocate, was accused by world-renowned scientists of propagating “significant distortions, misrepresentations, or misinterpretations of fact… designed to defend the credibility of corporations… directly or indirectly supporting them financially.”
Is it purely coincidence that Dr. Oz and his wingman Bryce Wylde are promoting palm oil to the American public just as MPOC’s aggressive PR campaign and financially backed lobby muscle try to influence the American public and EPA’s big decision on palm oil?
Or could it be that another embarrassing media censure is on the way like when a UK TV company was forced to suspend its relationship with the Malaysian government after broadcasting false information to millions of people around the world through programs made by a company that had received millions of pounds in payments from the government of Malaysia?
Time will tell. Meanwhile, if you haven’t done so yet, please send Dr. Oz a letter now and ask him to correct his irresponsible statements on air.
This post was originally published by Rainforest Action Network.
Photo: Be The Change Inc./flickr