Franken- fears

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
of Economics.

  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
been found
  elsewhere to be associated with increased public concern," Gaskell said in
a telephone

  Coining terms such as "Frankenfoods" to describe new crops also helped
frighten people,
  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,"
he added.

  "But at some point the metaphor becomes more than just an association. It
becomes the

  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
by the
  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
difference between
  the Europeans and the Americans," Gaskell said.

  "But Europeans are ... much more likely to think that genetically modified
foods are
  adulterated in some way. They are much more likely to think that if they
eat genetically
  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
dangers genetically
  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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