AAllan at AOL.COM
AAllan at AOL.COM
Thu Jul 15 19:33:10 UTC 1999
Here's some Franken-news: (- Allan Metcalf)
'Frankenfood' Headlines Scare Public, Study Shows
Updated 2:30 PM ET July 15,
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The drive to come up with a catchy headline probably
turn Europeans so strongly against genetically modified foods, while
Americans so far barely
notice, researchers said Thursday.
They said the volume and intensity of news coverage of controversial
policies are often
associated with an increase in public concern. But governments had better
act on the public's
fears, regardless of their source, the researchers said.
"The lesson for science, industry and governments is: ignore public opinion
at your peril,"
said George Gaskell, a professor of social psychology at the London School
Gaskell and colleagues analyzed the differences in attitudes with opinion
surveys and studies
of news coverage and government policies.
"Just the very volume of press coverage around a controversial policy has
elsewhere to be associated with increased public concern," Gaskell said in
Coining terms such as "Frankenfoods" to describe new crops also helped
said Gaskell, whose findings are reported in the journal Science.
"It's the headlines and it's metaphors. The role of a metaphor originally
is to make the
unfamiliar familiar. It tells you that something is like something else,"
"But at some point the metaphor becomes more than just an association. It
Although terms such as "Frankenfood" appeared in U.S. and British
newspapers as early as
1992, the news coverage was much more intense in Europe, Gaskell's team
Because of the level of the coverage, Gaskell said, people thought
genetically modified food
must be a dangerous and important issue.
He said most "elite" media in Europe provided coverage of genetically
modified foods --
such as longer-lasting tomatoes -- that was fairly positive. U.S.
newspapers such as The
Washington Post were, in fact, slightly more negative, he said.
But then there was an explosion of European interest, marked perhaps most
controversy over Monsanto's Round Up Ready soybean, genetically engineered
to resist the
herbicide of the same name.
"We think the rapid growth in press coverage in Europe from about 1992 is
an indication to
the public that there are some problems here, that there are contested
issues," Gaskell said.
Gaskell's team also surveyed Americans and Europeans on their knowledge and
"On a very simple test of basic biological knowledge there is not much
the Europeans and the Americans," Gaskell said.
"But Europeans are ... much more likely to think that genetically modified
adulterated in some way. They are much more likely to think that if they
modified foods, their genes will be changed," he added. "This is much less
so in the minds of
Europeans also trust their governments less to keep them safe from any
foods might pose.
"I think Americans are, on the whole, much more optimistic about new
technologies than are
Europeans," he said.
Gaskell said it was not clear why, but he would continue to study people's
attitudes. "It may
be part of popular culture, it may be the history of eugenics, it may be
the BSE (bovine
spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease) crisis that hit Europe," he
Gaskell said governments had better act on these public fears. "Had
labeling been taken more
seriously and the whole issue of segregation of crops, one wonders whether
the present crisis
would be as severe as it is," Gaskell said. . . .
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