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Popularizing dissent: A civil society perspective

Judy Motion, Shirley Leitch, C Kay Weaver

This article theorizes civil society groups’ attempts to popularize opposition to genetic modification in New Zealand as deliberative interventions that seek to open up public participation in science–society governance. In this case, the popularization strategies were designed to intensify concerns about social justice and democratic incursions, mobilize dissent and offer meaningful mechanisms for navigating and participating in public protest. Such civic popularization efforts, we argue, are more likely to succeed when popularity and politicization strategies are judiciously integrated to escalate controversy, re-negotiate power relations and provoke agency and action.

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Citizen cartography, strategies of resistance to established knowledge and collective forms of knowledge building

Jorgelina Sannazzaro

Cultivation of genetically modified soybeans with the use of herbicides is now becoming widespread in Argentina. This work addresses an emblematic case of knowledge articulation between experts, professionals and communities, namely, the case of an association of people affected by fumigation Grupos de Pueblos Fumigados (GPF). The GPF warns against agrochemical spraying in urban areas, and its activists collect and disseminate information about its impact with a view to banning the practice. Here, we apply Parthasarathy’s framework, used to analyse the strategies employed by activists to break the expertise barrier, to the case of the GPF, adding a new category to her original four strategies. There is an institutionalizing potential in these social and environmental movements, many of which are organized in the form of Civic Assemblies. The composition of the assemblies reflects a heterogeneous and multi-sectorial character; they articulate a new kind of knowledge that can be an appropriate interlocutor for traditional expert knowledge.

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Attitudes to genetically modified food over time: How trust in organizations and the media cycle predict support

Mathew D. Marques

This research examined public opinion toward genetically modified plants and animals for food, and how trust in organizations and media coverage explained attitudes toward these organisms. Nationally representative samples (N = 8821) over 10 years showed Australians were less positive toward genetically modified animals compared to genetically modified plants for food, especially in years where media coverage was high. Structural equation modeling found that positive attitudes toward different genetically modified organisms for food were significantly associated with higher trust in scientists and regulators (e.g. governments), and with lower trust in watchdogs (e.g. environmental movement). Public trust in scientists and watchdogs was a stronger predictor of attitudes toward the use of genetically modified plants for food than animals, but only when media coverage was low. Results are discussed regarding the moral acceptability of genetically modified organisms for food, the media’s role in shaping public opinion, and the role public trust in organizations has on attitudes toward genetically modified organisms.

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Seeking Congruency or Incongruency Online? Examining Selective Exposure to Four Controversial Science Issues

S. Mo Jang

This study examined how citizens select science information online based on their preexisting issue attitudes. Voluntary national samples browsed through an online news magazine featuring divergent viewpoints about four controversial science topics (stem cell, evolution, genetically modified foods, and global warming). Their online activities, including article selection and the length of exposure, were unobtrusively measured by behavior tracking software. Participants tended to choose science information that challenged rather than supported their views concerning stem cell and genetically modified foods. However, those who perceived that they had sufficient science knowledge and were religious exhibited confirmation-bias, preferring congruent to incongruent information.

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