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The state of the ‘GMO’ debate - toward an increasingly favorable and less polarized media conversation on ag-biotech?
GM Crops & Food  (IF3.118),  Pub Date : 2022-03-23, DOI: 10.1080/21645698.2022.2051243
Sarah Evanega, Joan Conrow, Jordan Adams, Mark Lynas


Although nearly three decades have passed since genetically modified crops (so-called ‘GMOs’) were widely commercialized, vociferous debate remains about the use of biotechnology in agriculture, despite a worldwide scientific consensus on their safety and utility. This study analyzes the volume and tenor of the GMO conversation as it played out on social and traditional media between 2018 and 2020, looking at 103,084 online and print articles published in English-language media around the world as well as 1,716,071 social media posts. To our knowledge, our analysis is the first comprehensive survey of the shifting traditional and online media discourse on this issue during this time period. While the volume of traditional media coverage of GMOs increased significantly during the period, this was combined with a dramatic drop in the volume of social media posts of over 80%. Traditional media tended to be somewhat more positive in their coverage than social media in 2018 and 2019, but that gap disappeared in 2020. Both traditional and social media saw trends toward increasing favorability, with the positive trend especially robust in social media. The large decline in volume of social media posts, combined with a strong trend toward greater favorability, may indicate a drop in the salience of the GMO debate among the wider population even while the volume of coverage in traditional media increased. Overall, our results suggest that both social and traditional media may be moving toward a more favorable and less polarized conversation on ag-biotech overall.