A nation's nature: framing the public discussion of genetically modified crops in Britain

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Hughes, Emma

Two key cultural concepts, 'nation’ and ‘nature’, have shaped the British debate on\ud genetic modification (GM). The thesis uses focus groups, semi-structured interviews\ud and newspaper analysis to explore how the concepts of nation and nature are used at\ud different moments during the process of communication. It examines media influence\ud within the GM debate and also considers other resources that audiences draw upon\ud when talking about GM.\ud The study found that, although most focus group participants reproduced dominant\ud media frames, they were not just passive consumers of the media. They creatively\ud synthesised a wide range of cultural resources in support of those frames. The thesis,\ud however, concludes that it is not accurate to describe such activity as 'resistance'. The study found that the media provide crucial discursive resources for the\ud construction of identity. This has a significant effect on how people understand\ud themselves, the modes of action they consider appropriate, who they trust and how\ud they understand social difference. The thesis concludes that nationality is still a key\ud way in which people make sense of the world but that Britain is principally depicted as\ud a nation of consumers rather than citizens.\ud GM is predominantly depicted as unnatural. The research indicates that framing risk\ud debates around nature premises physiological as opposed to social risks. Both nature\ud and nation are 'categories of certainty'; they have been used within the Western world\ud to structure how people understand themselves and the world around them. The focus\ud on these categories puts ideas of security and fear at the centre of the GM debate. Frames promoted by environmental NGOs dominated the coverage. The study\ud considers their implications and argues NGOs should not be exclusively concerned\ud with making 'pragmatic', politically expedient demands that do not challenge the basis\ud of inequality. Rather, they should be contributing to a political project which envisages\ud new ways of organising society.
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