29 January 2013

East Africa: TV Host Responds to Grasp Challenge and Urges Sustainable Choices

press release

Nairobi — Popular television host Dr. Mehmet Oz has responded to concerns expressed by the United Nations Environment Programme's Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) regarding his endorsement of red fruit palm oil by posting an on-line blog that specifically addresses the threat unsustainable production poses to great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia.

Writing in "The Oz Blog," the host of the daily syndicated "The Dr. Oz Show" warned that "permitting the clearing of thousands of acres of rainforests to make room for palm oil farms does endanger the environment along with the orangutans that live there."

Added Oz: "Careless decisions will lead to the destruction of rainforests, the decimation of wildlife, and the exploitation of indigenous peoples."

GRASP ambassadors Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Richard Wrangham and others had earlier challenged Oz to clarify his endorsement of red fruit palm oil his "most miraculous find for 2013" during segment of his program broadcast earlier this month. Oz failed to warn viewers that the production of palm oil is a major threat to the long-term survival of orangutans in Southeast Asia and other great apes in Africa.

"Dr. Oz is a popular television personality whose words carry great weight," said Goodall. "Thus his statements regarding red palm fruit oil could have a devastating effect on great apes around the world, particularly orangutans."

Added Wrangham: "There is no doubt that the international demand for palm oil has devastated much of Southeast Asia's biodiversity, threatening the existence of orangutans in the process. But increasingly, we are seeing the same scenario played out in Africa. A cheap, profitable crop like palm oil is difficult for many to turn down, even if it means wiping out chimpanzee or gorilla habitat in the process. Surely Dr. Oz's audience would like to make informed consumer choices with so much in the balance."

Oz's enthusiastic support for red palm fruit oil - without mentioning the possible environmental risks or consequences - encouraged many consumers to buy the product.

"As is often the case, many viewers took our advice and started purchasing the oil in vast quantities," Oz wrote. "Despite its multitude of health benefits, red palm oil has the risk of being produced in a way that endangers wildlife in different parts of the world. I hear your concerns, and I am concerned as well."

GRASP officials worked with Oz's staff and production company to craft his response.

"The Dr. Oz Show" is broadcast in 188 countries, and currently ranks as one of the highest-rated daytime programs in recent history. Oz is also the author of six best-selling health books, and has a regular column in Time magazine and Oprah magazine.

"The Oz Blog" can be found at http://blog.doctoroz.com/dr-oz-blog/the-environment-and-you-why-you-should-make-sustainable-choices.

GRASP is a unique alliance comprised of partner nations, research institutions, United Nations agencies, conservation organizations, and private supporters working to protect great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia. For more information, please visit www.un-grasp.org

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