Who's stirring the GMO pot?

May 2018

Would you believe that, after decades of blaming the pesky Greens for stirring up consumer resistance to GM foods, US scientists have worked out that it's really the pesky Reds!

With state funding, the researchers tried to get a better understanding of the GM food controversy, the hope being that they could "put information out there to make people better understand GMOs ... then that fear (of GMOs) might go away". To this end, professors of sociology and agronomy in Iowa State University joined forces to look at how the media portrayed biotechnology to the public.

If this smells like a grand plan to counter the increasing US public scepticism about GM and all things connected to it, read on and decide for yourself.


They found that two Russian government-funded international English-language news sites, RT and Sputnik, featured more articles containing the word 'GMO' than all the old-timers of the American news industry* put together.

*Huffington Post, CNN, Fox, Breitbart and MSNBC 

Moreover, unlike the balanced reporting of GM by the American press, "RT and Sputnick overwhelmingly portrayed genetic modification in a negative light". RT, it seems, was also guilty of a disproportionate number of 'click baits'* or 'false flags'* containing the word 'GMO' embedded in its articles.

*Click baits and false flags are links "designed to create latent associations between GMOs and negative emotions".

These overwhelmingly GM-unfriendly Russian articles were immediately described as "misinformation attacks", quickly expanded into a "misinformation campaign" fitting "the profile of the Russian information warfare strategy". By the end of the article, the Russians are not only "purveyors(s) of anti-GMO information", but are waging an "anti-science campaign".

No criteria are offered regarding what content in an article was considered "misinformation": seemingly, it was anything reflecting an anti-GM attitude.

The example of click bait presented in the paper featured the Zika virus which caused a horrific epidemic of malformed babies in Brazil in 2016. RT news carried an article about the added difficulties caused by Zika in a Roman Catholic country like Brazil where abortion is forbidden by the Church no matter how damaged the baby is likely to be. Since Zika is spread by mosquitoes, the article had two embedded links to the most recent proposals for eliminating the vector: the first was in the main body of the text and concerned a UN proposal to use irradiation; the second was at the very end (after a stack of comments where readers are least likely to catch it) and concerned a Reuters article a week before pointing out that GM mosquitoes may have actually been instrumental in the Zika virus outbreak (this was covered by GM-free Scotland [1]). Within the second article was a link to a third article, also Reuters, published three days earlier describing Oxitec's GM strategy for eliminating mosquitoes and all the diseases they carry.

COMMENT Since the cause(s) and cures for this dreadful disease were hot-button topics at the time, it would take a very determined pro-GM attitude to perceive these links as sinister, rather than just good journalism. There's no 'misinformation' in any of the articles, and of the two on GM mozzies, one is positive and the other is negative. The 'overwhelmingly' negative Russian reporting is not illustrated.

All these accusations of anti-GM, anti-US, anti-science, anti-truth warfare should be viewed against the backdrop of what Sustainable Pulse describes as "the US attempt to establish a GMO dictatorship in the world". US priority is the "liberalization of the world market for transgenic (GMO) goods". It's campaign is led by, for example, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), diplomatic missions and the US Agriculture Ministry, and is aided by American biotech industry take-over of conventional seed producers to re-orient them towards GM, plus the philanthropic Gates Foundation to lend respectability.

Embarrassingly for US expansionism, Russia is heading in the opposite direction: it is one of 38 countries (including 20 in the EU) which have banned the growing of GM crops, and since 2015, food security and food independence have been singled out as national priorities. Russia is rebranding itself as 'ecologically clean' which shows up the USA for what it is (courtesy of its agrichemical obsession, GMOs, and its biotech industry stranglehold): ecologically grubby and planning to make the rest of the world the same.

How did this situation come about?

According to polls, 82% of Russians consider GM products to be hazardous to health, while 46% of the US public care little or not at all about GM and less than 20% feel well-informed on the subject. RT's interpretation is that its level of news coverage reflects the level of concern in its audience. The Iowa scientists' interpretation is that news coverage creates the concern and that the high GM coverage they found in the Russian media is therefore an anti-GM, anti-US plot.

One American professor of international affairs provides an insight which suggests a third interpretation. She describes her fellow countrymen as "one of the least intelligent nations in the developed world". Her conclusion stems from her recognition of the low-quality and underfunding of education in the USA, plus a pathetic commitment to higher education, all built on a long history of deep-seated anti-intellectualism as America's immigrant ancestors strove to distance themselves from their European past. In short, she identifies a "collective stupidity" in the USA which makes the people suckers for biotech industry inspired pro-GM propaganda (which suits the US GM agenda) , but also easy prey for click bait, and any 'trolls' and 'internet bots' spreading information their government doesn't want them to know a.k.a., it seems, "mis-information".

OUR COMMENT


The Iowa study with its curiously biased conclusion drawn from data which could mean all sorts of things was funded by the state. That same state must be aware of the growing consumer interest in healthy food and increasingly negative attitudes to the artificial techniques used in their food production. That same state must be aware that "Who controls the food supply controls the people" (Henry Kissinger). That same state must be aware that if the people start controlling their food, the biotech industry and government will lose control of the people. That same state must be aware of the post-Trump election-victory hunt for Russian intervention at every level of the administration.


Who's really stirring the GM pot?


Background

[1] ZIKA AND SUPER-ZIKA - April 2016

SOURCES:
  • Shawn F. Dorius and Carolyn J. Lawrence-Dill, pre-print 26.02.18, Sowing the seeds of skepticism: Russian state news and the anti-GMO movement, https://osf.10/v27yh/
  • Tsargrad TV: Russia preventing the US from establishing a global GMO dictatorship, Sustainable Pulse, 18.03.18
  • Jarrett Potts, What's the difference between a troll and an Internet Bot, www.linkedin.com
  • Sophia A. McClennen, Why Americans are such easy targets for trolls and bots, www.salon .com, 3.03.18
  • Justin Cremer, Russia uses 'information warfare' to portray GMOs negatively, htttps://alliancefor science.cornell.edu/blog/, 28.02.18
  • Donnelle Eller, Anti-GMO articles tied to Russian sites, ISU research shows, www.desmoinesregister.com, 25.02.18
  • Complex abortion debate emerges over Zika virus-infected fetuses, www.rt.com, 6.02.16
  • Josue Decavele, Reuters, GMO mosquitoes could be cause of Zika outbreak, critics say, www.rt.com, 30.01.16
  • Jim Gathany, Reuters, Genetically engineered mosquitoes battle Zika virus in Brazil, www.rt.com, 27.01.16

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