Written by Charisma Love B Gado
The gun, bomb, and rope. For Evelyn Martin, a househelp and grandmother of three aged from 5 to 9 months, these symbols are enough for her to never try Genetically Modified products.
“Why would I eat that food if these posters show me that GMO is bad for my health? I might get crazy and kill myself through gun or rope like in the images.I would never give such food to my grandchildren!” the 46-year-old woman of Maligaya, Science City of Muñoz,Nueva Ecija said in Filipino.
Even if she will be briefed on the benefits of GMOs and presented with studies showing that they are safe toeat, she wouldn`t change her mind. The striking images for her are enough for her to make a strong decision.
Mikee Nuñez-Inton, postgrad student in Cultural Studies at Lingnan University,Hong Kong, said the anti-GMO posters work mostly on the appeal to the sanctity of life.
The colors used, she said,are dim and dark, so the viewers know that the ads are not “happy” ads.“In fact, they seem to serve more like warning signs than mere posters. All ads also seem to equate GMOs to death – they basically treat GMOs as poison. However, they make two major fallacies: hasty generalization (all GMOs are bad and should not be eaten) and the slippery slope (ingesting GMOs automatically results in death),” she explained.
PhilRice sociologist Rhemilyn Relado agreed with Inton`s opinion.
“The posters ignited a common fear—death. Individuals who have no prior knowledge on the debate between GM advocates and anti-GM proponents would definitely err on the conservative side… That is to preserve and lengthen their own lives, and not be walking timebombs!,” she explained.
However, Johnny Goloyugo, a senior communication associate scientist, noted that the posters used by the anti-GMO movements are “unclear especially for people who lack basic information about biotechnology and what GMO is all about.”
“Even if the letters G-M-O are written in the posters, what is it to ordinary passersby? To me, the posters are simply scare tactics that do not bite sensible people, especially for the well-informed ones,” he said.
Other than the use of dark posters, anti-GMO groups demonize biotechnology through language. Rachel Schurman in her article, Fighting “frankenfoods” industry: Opportunity structures and the efficacy of the anti-biotech movement in Western Europe, said that the symbolicactions used by anti-biotech movements played an important role in stimulating the consumer revolt that had occurred in some countries. She said that Greenpeace “was particularly skilled at carrying out eye-catching publicity and were masters at attracting the klieg lights of the media.”
In his article, Attack of the killer labels, Jay Byrne revealed that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and organic agriculture lobbying groups,had provided journalists with a glossary of alternative words related to biotechnology. This glossary was called, GE euphemisms and more accurate alternative power words to use: Controlling the language.
Instead of biotechnology, biotechnology companies, and biotechnologists, words were changed to genetic engineering industry, genetically engineered foods,Frankenfood, test-tube food, and mutated food.In a book chapter titled, Philippines: Drama and communication behind Asia`s first commercialized Bt Corn by Jenny A. Panopio and Mariechel J.Navarro, they noted that biotechnology,a least understood technology, “was aggravated by media`s attempts at defining the concept through visual
imagery that evoked concern, fear, and uncertainty.”
News such as “(GM food)will result in millions of dead bodies and sick children, physical deformities and disease cluster. It can cause homosexuality and mental retardation” and “GM crops and “frankenfish” will result in widespread contamination,irreversible damages” were published in the Philippines` major dailies in 2004.
“It is easier to inflict fear particularly if individuals are not familiar with the subject. If you haven`t tried or are not familiar with GMOs, fear may persist. The best way to elicit fear is to appeal to emotions, particularly if we are not familiar with the subject,” Jay Claus Santos, community psychology specialist based in Central Luzon State University said.
Although quite afraid, Santos said that this does not mean that people will not try GMOs.
“Sometimes, when we are forbidden to try something,the tendency to try it actually increases,” he said.