The U.S. Print Media's Framing of the Genetic Modification of Food
Perdue, Robert T.
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In the last decade, the prevalence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) within the American food supply has rapidly increased, with some experts estimating their presence in 80% of all U.S. food products. Unlike many other parts of the world, consumer opposition to this biotechnology has been modest in the U.S., and numerous studies have found that most Americans are unconcerned about this paradigm shift in agriculture. Although the genetic modification (GM) literature is substantial, little research has examined the role the media may play in this acquiescence, while even less has focused on the way critics and advocates of genetic modification have framed this issue. Addressing this lacuna is important because many scholars have concluded that the way an issue is framed significantly influences how an audience interprets a given message, and ultimately affects opinion formation. This study examined the websites of numerous anti-GM organizations and transnational biotech companies to determine the dominant frames they employ in their attempt to influence the American consumer. Once these frames were identified, frame analysis of the three most widely read newspapers in the country was conducted to measure the extent these frames have been employed by the U.S. print media. I hypothesized that the frames used by critics of the technology have been employed at significantly lower rates than those of advocates. This analysis suggested, however, that the way this issue has been framed in the print media is likely a less significant factor in this acquiescence than the sheer dearth of coverage generally.
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