Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 529–539 | Cite as

Seeds of discontent: Expert opinion, mass media messages, and the public image of agricultural biotechnology

  • Susanna Hornig Priest
  • Allen W. Gillespie


Survey data are presented on opinions about agricultural biotechnology and its applications held by agricultural science faculty at highly ranked programs in the United States with and without personal involvement in biotechnology-oriented research. Respondents believed biotech holds much promise, but policy positions vary. These results underscore the relationship between opinion and stakeholder interests in this research, even among scientific experts. Media accounts are often seen as causes, rather than artifacts, of the existence of public controversy; European and now U.S. opposition to food biotechnology is often explained away in terms of such a relationship. The authors argue that where even experts are divided, public opposition cannot reasonably be attributed to poor public understanding or sensationalistic media accounts. Ethical implications for communicating science are explored.


biotechnology science journalism agriculture expert opinion mass media 


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Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of JournalismTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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