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Public Underst Sci. 2010 Jan;19(1):98-114.

Genetically modified food in the news: media representations of the GM debate in the UK.

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  • 1Discourse and Social Psychology Unit, School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.


This paper analyses a corpus of articles on GM crops and food which appeared in six UK newspapers in the first three months of 2004, the year following the GM Nation? debate (2003). Using the methods of critical discourse analysis we focus on how specific and pervasive representations of the major stakeholders in the national debate on GM--the British public, the British government, the science of GM, and biotechnology companies--served significant rhetorical functions in the controversy. Of particular significance was the pervasive representation of the British public as uniformly opposed to GM crops and food which served rhetorically to position the British government as undemocratic and as being beholden to powerful political and economic interests. Of significance also in our analysis, is how the science of GM farming itself became a highly contested arena. In short, our analysis demonstrates how the GM debate was represented in the newsprint media as a "battleground" of competing interests. We conclude by considering the possible implications of this representation given the increasing emphasis placed on the importance of deliberative and inclusive forms of science policy decision-making.

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