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What’s Really at the Heart of the Debate About GMOS?

May 6, 2016
Is science really at the heart of the GMO debate, or is there something else perpetuating the deep divisions on these issues? In a column at, Kate Hall, managing director of the Council for Biotechnology Information and GMO Answers spokesperson, explores this question as she reflects on Scientific American’s forum, "Lost in Translation: Is Science Explained Fairly in the Media." Hall contends that an individual’s perception of the scientific consensus and their cultural predispositions play a larger role than most may think.

According to Dan Kahan, a member of the Cultural Cognition Project and Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at Yale Law School, what separates opposing sides on these controversial issues is not necessarily the science, but that an “individual’s perceptions of scientific consensus” is likely based on their “cultural predispositions.” Kahan writes that our internal process for assessing and determining the credibility of scientific information is rooted in “cultural cognition,” which “refers to the influence of group values … on risk perceptions and related beliefs.”

Thus, even when a person is given balanced information about a topic like GMOs, that information is filtered through the individual’s shared value system with a specific group and then accepted or denied according to their world view. The Scientific American panel addressed these issues, along with a whole host of other topics facing scientists and journalists today.

Please head over to Forbes to read the whole column, and for additional information related to GMOs, visit GMO Answers.