Woeful ignorance

Published: Thursday 30 June 2005

-- GM Crops Third World

A survey of newspaper reports relating to genetically modified (gm) crops in five developing countries has shown that journalists most often did not analyse issues critically. In four of the countries studied -- Brazil, India, Kenya and Zambia -- the media towed the government line on gm crops while in Thailand it indiscriminately opposed government plans to introduce gm crops.

The study, by uk-based Panos Institute, describes Zambia's print media as the least engaged in reporting on gm research and policy. The media survey was part of Panos' larger study on gm decision-making, gm debate -- Who decides?

"Farmers are among those most immediately affected by gm," write the authors. "However, their views, particularly those of small-scale farmers, are rarely reflected in the media... . Most news articles were based on announcements from government sources -- this is a reflection of the relative weakness of investigative journalism in science-related issues in most developing countries."

The study also found that the non-English media in India, Kenya and Zambia carried very little coverage of gm issues. "This was one of our more worrying findings," says Ehsan Masood, the report's lead author.

"The vast majority of people in each of these three countries obtain their news from media sources in their own languages and not in English. They are in effect being tuned out of the gm debate," he rued.

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