Biotechnology, media and public opinion across national boundaries

Document Type



The biotechnology controversy highlights national differences in policy processes, ethical systems, and value choices. The debate over food biotechnology in particular has pitted a vision of science as inherently progressive against one of science as an instrument of economic imperialism. The media have become implicated in this drama. Within U.S. scientific and policy circles, anti-biotechnology sentiment elsewhere has often been attributed to ignorance inflamed by sensationalistic news. This argument trivializes people’s actual concerns, which in democratic societies merit attention even where not scientifically based. In fact, scientific knowledge is a poor predictor of support for biotechnology, a significant minority in the U.S. has reservations, and U.S. and European elite news accounts of biotech are quite similar. This paper reviews comparative media and opinion data on the U.S. and Europe, looks briefly at the representation of the African situation in U.S. media, and suggests some implications relevant to African journalism.


Africa; Agriculture; Ethics and values; Europe; Food – Biotechnology; Science journalism; Science literacy; Science news; Public opinion; Public policy; United States


Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | International and Intercultural Communication | Journalism Studies | Science and Technology Policy | Science and Technology Studies

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