Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Framing genetic diversity

''I don't care if they're dangerous,'' said an old man. "I don't know what the threat is ... nothing serious, I think ...'', a lady helped herself to three sacks of the fruit in minutes. A man waiting in traffic for the lights to go green near the ministry, leapt out of his car and joined the feast: ''I'm not scared of GM papayas. Rather, I'm scared I won't have any to eat,'' said the man, before rushing back to his car with the free fruit.

The frontpage of the newspaper features Greenpeace that had dumped tonnes of papayas in front of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry yesterday to protest the lifting of the ban on open-field trials of genetically-modified (GM) papaya. People had flocked to load up on the free papayas, ignoring the environmental organization's campaign against the dangers of GM fruit.

Most passers-by knew nothing about transgenic fruit, and said they did not care about any health risks. ''This shows the failure of government agencies to educate people about the possible health risks of genetically-engineered crops,'' Greenpeace said later on. “At least we got on the front page of the newspapers”, I was told today. Their website did not mention the unexpected reaction of the public...!

To me the communication residue in the minds of newspaper readers might well be: “see, GM food is not any problem at all”. And Greenpeace, if they want to continue their campaign, might well be advised to start reframing the discourse into something that triggers the right psychology and appeals for motives for change. Like bio-fuels and not agro-fuels, ‘genetically modified’ just seems too abstract and harmless.

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