The 2010 Eurobarometer on life science and biotechnology reveals an overall suspicion of GM foods amongst the public: the 61% of Europeans agree that GM food makes them feel uneasy and a higher proportion, 70%, think that GM food is fundamentally unnatural. In the economics literature many studies investigate the factors that drive public resistance: ethical concerns, low public trust in regulatory institution, risk misperception, absence of perceived benefits and media bias. In particular, public attitudes and risk perception about agricultural biotechnology are proved to be influenced by press media communication. This paper aims at gaining insight into the visual communication to which Italian population is exposed about GMOs, in order to investigate if images could have contributed to shape their negative public perception. A set of 500 images collected through Google search for “GMO” in Italy are classified considering fearful attributes (i.e. alteration of color, shape or size of plants or animals, mention to death or war, presence of DNA double helix or syringe) and an index that accounts for the scary impact of these images is built. Then the relationship between the index and a set of variables that refer to the context in which images appear is estimated. Preliminary results reveal that the order of appearance of images negatively affect index, namely that the first (and most viewed) Google result pages contain the most frightful images. It suggests that Italian population is subject to overstated negative inputs about GMOs. In addition, it emerges that web contents that show positive or neutral GMO attitudes are barely accompanied with objective and balanced visual communication. Implications and future research are then discussed.


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