9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Risk, Governance and Biotechnology Building I, 1E6

GMOs in Lithuanian Public Opinion and Mass Media Discourse

In Lithuania, as in most countries in the world, public debates concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) continue to be controversial and constantly revolving. On the other hand, one could hardly identify GMOs among the key story lines in the public discourse of Lithuanian society at large, except of some particular farmer communities or locales within the green movement, government and academic community. This paper is aimed at exploring societal attitudes towards GMOs and the role of mass media. This paper is based on results of empirical research conducted by the authors of this paper in the framework of research project RINOVA (Public risk perceptions, social communication and innovative governance) funded by the Lithuanian National Science foundation. The research methodology is based on a representative public opinion survey, and content analysis of GMOs' coverage in mass media, particularly in the three leading daily newspapers. The research was carried out in 2008. The research findings indicate that public discourse concerning GMOs is far from being a one-dimensional pros and cons issue, it triggers different debates and arguments - from the scientific and economic to the very particular aspects, e.g. the impact of GMOs for ecological bee-keepers' farming sustenance base. Exploration of RINOVA results (survey of public opinion and factor-analysis based study) has identified several types of attitudes among Lithuanian population towards GMOs. One could indentify those who are seriously concerned about the negative health and environmental impact of GMOs, those who are optimistic about the positive impact of GMOs on personal well-being, and those who are optimistic about the positive general impact of GMOs' development on the world economy and social development. The research conducted by deploying different research methods has identified different emphases, namely the public opinion survey points at the primary concern about negative environmental consequences, e.g. reduction of biodiversity, whereas content analysis of mass media points to the emphasis on human health risk issues regarding GMOs. However, the public opinion poll (nearly 70% of respondents) reveals that GMOs are very poorly reflected by the Lithuanian mass media. The paper looks into possible ways of explaining and interpreting these findings.