Archive for G.M.O.’s

GMOs: A Case Study in Risk Perception

Posted in Atwood, Rhetoric, Risk & Fear with tags , , on February 18, 2010 by Sarah

As you all know, I’m always trying to get us not just to be more enlightened about the environmental problems out there, but to become more critical about how we come to perceive what and which environmental problems to focus on or care about.  Follow me?   I want us to be always vigilant about the rhetoric of environmental crisis; that’s one of the top “learning outcomes” of our class, recall? 

We’ll spend quite a bit of time talking about “risk perception” in upcoming weeks, but this article gives us a little forecast of the importance of risk perception to the aforementioned vigilance.  The basic premise of risk perception is that there are all kinds of forces–some corporate, some media, some social/cultural, etc etc– that shape what we perceive to be problems we should take seriously.  It really has nothing to do with what are truly the greatest threats.  We purchase home insurance based on 5% risk of anything happening to it, but many of us don’t believe that climate change is occuring, even when “scientific uncertainty” amounts to far greater likelihood than 5%.   This is an example of how risk perception is influenced by a whole gamut of forces– laws, corporate interest, media portrayal of home disasters, fear of ‘others’, time-scale of the given risk, scope and geographical scale of that risk, perceived origins of that risk, ability to imagine threats to home better than threats to planet, etc– rather than the reality of the threat. 

Framing all of this in terms of GMOs, we might ask, “why don’t we care about GMOs?”, “Why are GMOs less scary to us than environmental refugees?”  

Check out the article’s treatment of GMOs by scrolling down.  Here’s a taste:

Imagine you are back running your media company. Following reports from Europe that consumers are demonstrating against GMOs, a biotech industry organization asks you to come up with a good risk communication strategy in the US. Realizing just how complex a task this is, you decide to study the field extensively.

…Before going forward you decide this time to set up some focus groups and commission some quantitative opinion research. And you immediately learn something astonishing. When you ask people if they have ever eaten any GM food, most say no. A majority of Americans are very surprised to learn they have been eating GM food—notably foods with GM corn and soy ingredients—for five or six years. And when they find out, they get angry, asking such questions as “Why weren’t we told?” and “Why isn’t the food labeled?” (Palfreman, 2001).

…You conclude that things are perilous. Any adverse reports about GMOs are likely to be reported, published, and picked up by the popular media, and any perceived risks amplified and ratcheted up. So, what is the best risk communication strategy? You cannot do much about the fact that GMOs are not perceived as necessary. You also feel it might be dangerous for biotech companies to make too much of the fact that GMOs will feed the world, given that most people realize they are, like all private companies, trying to make profits. But one variable appears very promising: choice. The ideal strategy is staring you in the face: labeling!

… You hand in your report, recommending your employer to lobby the FDA intensively to introduce mandatory labeling. Unfortunately, your advice is too counter-intuitive for your client. The biotech organization fires you and retains another media company instead.  Welcome to the thankless world of risk communication!


G.M.O.’s (Goods Most Offal)

Posted in Atwood, Natural Disasters, Risk & Fear with tags on February 17, 2010 by Rita

      If you’re like me, I had heard the terminology of G.M.O.’s and knew the basic definition of G.M.O.’s but I hadn’t really given too  much time, thought, or energy into understanding what this topic is or how it impacts us all. SO…I’ll try and give some info on all this and hopefully it will get YOU to thinking!

     For those who don’t know, in a nutshell, G.M.O.s are genetically modified, mutated, or mutilated (depending on your view) substances. Wikipedia states that a G.M.O. is a,

 “Genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, a subset of GMOs, are organisms which have inserted DNA that originated in a different species.”

     Some examples of severely altered substances are; a species of corn that produces its own pesticide as it grows, a golden rice made from vitamins for use in countries where the populace is malnourished and/or poor, and  tomatoes spliced with flounder DNA producing tomatoes that can withstand cold temperatures.

     According to Jeffrey Smith, a leading G.M.O. expert,, every human in the world should be horrified that G.M.O.s are not being labeled in our foods, that this playing “God” is going to come back and bite us in the ass, and we need to gain knowledge and use that knowledge to stop this organismistic tampering now. For those of you wanting more information and to learn about some of the political prostituting involving G.M.O.s, here’s a good website to start with;

     Before you swallow, did you know that 40% of the foods found and purchased by you in the grocery store have G.M.O.s in it! This occurs do to… 

  Government + Greedy Politicians + Big Businesses =

                                      NO LABELING OF PRODUCTS  REQUIRED!

      Some examples of products found in stores that have been tested and found to have trace amounts of or more G.M.O.s are:

  • Fritos
  • Corn Flakes (General Mills & Kellogg’s)
  • Soy Baby Formula (Enfamil, Nestle Carnation, & Similac Isomil)
  • Granola Bars (Quaker Chewy & Nabisco Snackwell’s)
  • Ball Park Franks
  • Duncan Hines Cake Mix
  • Ultra Slim Fast
  • Alpo Dry Pet Food
  • Gardenburgers
  • Morning Star Farms products
  • Canola Oil

       Fresh Produce

  • Corn
  • Papaya
  • Potato
  • Soybeans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes


              As the saying goes,

                                  “You are what you eat!”

                                                           Welcome to the Freak Show.