From lab to fork? Press coverage and public (mis)perception of crop biotechnology in Uganda

Lukanda, Nathanael Ivan (2018-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study explores the structure of the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Uganda. It focuses on how two local newspapers, the New Vision and the Daily Monitor, cover the subject, and on the public perception regarding a contested science (biotechnology), promoted and de-campaigned in the same pages simultaneously. The aim was to establish the different ways in which media coverage of biotechnology influences public perception of its products, especially crop (food) GMOs, in Uganda. It draws on the sciencein- society model, the public sphere and the media logic theoretical framework as a lens for understanding Uganda’s case in this global debate. The study used content analysis, a face-toface survey and in-depth interviews to obtain data and analyse Uganda’s intricate situation in terms of having GMOs on the market in the absence of an enabling law to commercialise what is in the country’s laboratories (labs). The key findings indicate that the coverage and perception of GMOs are shaped by the contours of capitalism, mistrust in government institutions and outright misinformation, all tied to personal and societal beliefs. The controversy is laced with discrimination, noticeable in the sharp-tongued accusations and counter-accusations. The debate has been described as a “distortion”, “deception”, “complexity”, “confrontation”, “murky” and an “opportunistic interaction”. In the two newspapers analysed for the purposes of this study, biotechnology was largely covered by freelancers, who were caught between evidence-based science reporting and providing a voice to all stakeholders on a subject newspaper editors consider peripheral in the light of audience and advertiser flight. Biotechnology is politicised to make it sellable. Legislation dominates the fault-finding elitist debate, driven mostly by events in other countries. Men are six times more likely to be used as sources in stories on biotechnology, but women’s chances of being quoted more than triple when they are quoted in the same story with men. Experts have limited impact as both scientists, and non-(pseudo) scientists are major sources of information on biotechnology, a mark of weakened cultural authority of science in the post-expert age. Biotechnology is a controversial subject in the newsroom and in society. Newspapers are part of the chain link for creating awareness, educating, sustaining debate and generating an ‘issues culture’. The scientist-journalists’ relationship determines how biotechnology is covered. Ethics, health, patents, contamination, sustainability and bioterrorism are risk concerns. Biotechnology remains a fulcrum for scientific, cultural, political and economic arguments. The debate on GMOs is also a clash of traditions between conservationists and their pro-GMO opponents. The youth are more likely to oppose GMOs in a debate from which farmers are hardly represented. There is stigmatisation of information sources, and yet a change in source of information and increase in knowledge are more likely to have a negative impact on individuals’ perceptions of the risks of GMOs. Public desire for face-to-face engagements with scientists is increasing, even though scientists’ technical opinions seem to be an inconveniencing luxury in the polarised debate. This study births an economic-media bicycle-chain model to tentatively explain the key issues in the debate. The study recommends the use of training in science communication to jump-start public engagement with biotechnology and other science subjects by inspiring academic involvement, increasing scientists’ branding, promoting scientific culture and stimulating public participation. The use of edutainment images/visuals in science communication could enhance discussions and weave science into the fabric of citizens’ day-to-day life as a form of accountability to the taxpayers who fund research. In addition, communicators should use traditional and digital media to harvest ideas to organise content, report about and engage with experts and their audience on new styles of storytelling that can be adopted to pave the way for dialogue on biotechnology and other science-related topics. Further, the study recommends the integration of a BrainLab in science institutions’ curriculum to equip future researchers with the creative communication skills to engage the media, policymakers and the public, as researchers get credit for mentoring their students in such outreaches; researchers can also get input in such forums through crowdsourcing and feedback for feedforward in future research. Such an approach is expected to promote team science communication and prevent science from getting lost through translation.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie dring deur die struktuur van die polemiek rondom geneties gemodifiseerde organismes (GMO’s) in Uganda deur te fokus op hoe twee plaaslike koerante, die New Vision en die Daily Monitor, die onderwerp dek, asook op die openbare persepsies van ’n omstrede wetenskap (biotegnologie) wat terselfdertyd in dieselfde blaaie bevorder en teen gestry word. Die doel was om die verskillende maniere te bepaal waarop die mediadekking van biotegnologie in Uganda die openbare persepsie van die produkte daarvan beïnvloed, veral gewas (voedsel) GMO’s. Dit gebruik die wetenskap-in-die-samelewing-model, die openbare sfeer en die media logika teoretiese raamwerk as ’n lens om die geval van Uganda in hierdie globale debat te verstaan. Die studie het gebruik gemaak van inhoudsanalise, ’n aangesig-totaangesig opname en diepte-onderhoude om Uganda se ingewikkelde situasie te analiseer in terme waarvan dit GMO’s in die mark het in die afwesigheid van ’n magtigingswet vir die kommersialisering van wat in die land se laboratoriums gevind kan word. Die vernaamste bevindings dui daarop dat die dekking en persepsie gevorm word deur die kontoere van kapitalisme, gebrek aan vertroue in regeringsinstansies en blatante valse berigte, wat almal gekoppel is aan persoonlike en samelewingsoortuigings. Die twispunt is deurtrek van diskriminasie, wat merkbaar is in die bitsige beskuldigings en teenbeskuldigings. In die twee koerante wat vir die doelwit van hierdie studie bestudeer is, is biotegnologie grootliks deur vryskutwerkers gedek, wat vasgevang is tussen bewyse-gebaseerde wetenskapsverslaggewing en die verskaffing van ’n stem vir alle belanghebbers oor ’n onderwerp wat koerantredakteurs beskou as op die rand in die lig van die vrees dat hulle lesers en adverteerders sal verloor. Biotegnologie word verpolitiseer om dit verkoopbaar te maak. Wetgewing domineer die foutvindende elitistiese debat, wat hoofsaaklik gedryf word deur gebeure in ander lande. Dit is ses keer meer waarskynlik dat mans as bronne gebruik word in stories oor biotegnologie, maar die kanse dat vrouens aangehaal word, verhoog drievoudig wanneer hulle in dieselfde storie as mans aangehaal word. Deskundiges het ’n beperkte impak, aangesien beide wetenskaplikes en nie(skyn)-wetenskaplikes vername bronne van inligting oor biotegnologie is, wat tekenend is van stukkende magstrukture in die ná-deskundige era. Biotegnologie is ’n omstrede onderwerp in die nuuskantoor en in die samelewing. Koerante vorm deel van ’n ketting vir die skep van bewussyn, onderrig, onderhoud van debatte en generering van ’n kultuur wat fokus op kwessies. Die verhouding tussen wetenskaplikes en joernaliste bepaal hoe biotegnologie gedek word. Etiek, gesondheid, patente, besmetting, volhoubaarheid en bio-terrorisme is risiko’s waaroor kommer heers. Biotegnologie bly ’n spilkop waarom wetenskaplike, kulturele, politiese en ekonomiese argumente draai. Die debat oor GMO’s behels ook ’n stryd tussen die tradisies van bewaringsgesindes en hulle pro-GMO opponente. Daar is ’n groter kans dat die jeug gekant sal wees teen GMO’s, maar boere is merkwaardig afwesig in die debat. Daar is stigmatisering van inligtingsbronne, en tog is daar ’n groter kans dat ’n verandering in die bron van inligting en ’n vermeerdering van kennis ’n negatiewe impak op individue se persepsies van die risiko’s van GMO’s sal hê. Die publiek se behoefte aan aangesig-tot-aangesig ontmoetings met wetenskaplikes is aan die toeneem, al behels die wetenskaplikes se tegniese opinies ’n luukse ongemak in die gepolariseerde debat. Hierdie studie lei tot die ontstaan van ’n ekonomie-media fietskettingmodel (bicycle-chain model) om sleutelkwessies in die debat voorlopig te verduidelik. Die studie beveel dus die gebruik aan van opleiding in wetenskapskommunikasie om publieke betrokkenheid by biotegnologie en ander wetenskapsonderwerpe aan die gang te kry deur akademiese betrokkenheid te inspireer, die ‘handelsmerk’ van wetenskaplikes te verbeter, ’n wetenskaplike kultuur te bevorder en publieke deelname te stimuleer. Die gebruik van prente/beelde in wetenskapskommunikasie kan besprekings verbeter en wetenskap in die inrigting van burgers se daaglikse lewe verweef as ’n vorm van aanspreeklikheid aan die belastingbetalers wat die navorsing befonds. Daarbenewens moet kommunikeerders tradisionele en digitale media gebruik om idees te bekom om inhoud te organiseer, verslag te doen oor en betrokke te raak by kundiges en hulle gehore oor nuwe style van storievertelling wat aangepas kan word om die weg te baan vir dialoog oor biotegnologie en ander wetenskapsverwante onderwerpe. Verder beveel dit die integrasie van ’n BrainLab in die kurrikulum van wetenskapsinstellings om toekomstige navorsers toe te rus met die kreatiewe kommunikasievaardighede wat nodig is om met die media, beleidmakers en die publiek betrokke te raak, aangesien navorsers krediet kry as hulle hul studente in sulke uitreike mentor; navorsers kan ook insette in sulke forums kry deur crowdsourcing en vanuit terugvoer as vooruit voer vir toekomstige navorsing. Daar word verwag dat só ’n benadering sal keer dat die wetenskap verlore gaan deur vertaling.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/104895
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