University of Tasmania
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Would you like genes with that? : Romanticism and the debate over genetically modified food

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:18 authored by Gash, LJ
For over thirty years a debate has raged over genetically modified (GM) food. While a wide range of individuals and organisations have waged a vitriolic campaign against GM food and its proponents, a number of GM crops have met with widespread adoption in the USA, Australia and elsewhere. It is surprising that after so many years, with around 70% of processed food in the USA containing GMOs, the anti-GM movement's main debating points and the level of emotion in their expression have changed little. The aim of this thesis is to explore whether one of the factors motivating the anti-GM cause is romanticism. This worldview, and its polar opposite, classicism (or scientism), are explored through an examination of the readings in sociology, philosophy, psychology and politics on this subject. This is followed by a discussion of the influence of romanticism on the modern green movement and alternative attitudes to food, as well as its relationship with science. While initially discussing both romanticism and classicism, the reasons for focussing on romanticism are that the views of GM proponents are fairly straightforward ‚Äö- GMOs are created to provide an advantage in particular agricultural food production systems, the science is sound and they make a profit, but romanticism as a worldview, though widely referenced in the arts and occasionally discussed as an influence in the environment movement, is rarely discussed in detail. Supporters of anti-GM Facebook pages based in Australia were surveyed using an instrument designed to assess a person's relative position on the Romanticism‚Äö-Classicism spectrum. The participants were found to score significantly at the romanticism end of the scale. The answers to open questions about attitudes to GM food contained emotionally charged phrases consistent with a romantic outlook. The findings are consistent with the proposition that individuals involved with the movement against GM food in Australia are influenced by a worldview based on romanticism.


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