• Question: How can the supporters of GM technology communicate their opinion better to a wider audience rather than just those who take part in I'm a scientist?

    Asked by ljrn42 to Andy, Cathie, Jules, Les, Ricarda on 29 Jun 2012.
    • Photo: Les Firbank

      Les Firbank answered on 29 Jun 2012:

      There are lots of ways, including pubic meetings, talks in schools, Science Week events, articles in the press. But I think the debate about GM has suffered a lot, because those organisations that have a lot of money to spend on publicity tend to be at the extremes of the debate, whether the companies that produce the GM crops themselves or opposing groups. Also the press have always liked arguments between extreme positions, they are more entertaining and newsworthy than more balanced views. So the impression is that GM is a really big deal, whereas it’s just one aspect of the the much broader issues raised at the start of this event, about feeding the work and maintaining our environment.

    • Photo: Andy Stirling

      Andy Stirling answered on 29 Jun 2012:

      Despite the (sometimes overbearing) size of international NGOs, the relative financial scale of the global industrial and institutional interests behind GM is far larger than that of those interests that oppose it. It certainly dwarfs the resources directly available to the most vulnerable groups in society, who are so often invoked in support of GM. So I’m not sure the greatest challenge in this field is that of how to get the ‘pro GM’ message out! Corporations, lobbyists, advertisers, science communicators, academic educators, intergovernmental organisations and government departments are expending enormous efforts to persuade an often-inconventiently-sceptical public. If society as a whole is to be fair and reasonable about this debate, we should ask how balanced are the public relations resources in favour of GM, compared with those in favour of alternative (arguably more effective) innovations, which do not offer such significant private benefits (and thus command such strong commercial support). I mentioned many of these in answer to the first question. Any injustice suffered by the GM industry is not the biggest story!

    • Photo: Ricarda Steinbrecher

      Ricarda Steinbrecher answered on 3 Jul 2012:

      According to my understanding, the issue is not about communicating opinions but to work together to find solutions to problems that affect us all (the sustainability of food production for example). It is not a question of supporters of GM technology to get more publicity for their point of view but for the whole issue to get better or more publicity and discussion, with all the arguments and potential methodologies, including alternatives to GM approaches, such as agro-ecology. Media, scientists and politicians alike have to be prepared to communicate the full complexity of the issues involved rather than making oversimplified claims or ‘silver bullet’ suggestions. This may be hard work but in my opinion it is the only way to do justice to the issues involved and to arrive at sustainable and lasting solutions.