The social construction of genetically engineered agriculture and food in the United States (Georgia) and New Zealand (Canterbury)
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Using a Social Construction of Technology Framework (SCOT), this dissertation looks at cross-cultural differences in cultural perceptions of genetically engineered food and crops (GE), between United States (US) and New Zealand (NZ) stakeholder groups [consumers, organic farmers, GE farmers (US), GE-amenable farmers (NZ)]. Multiple methodologies were utilized to gain a full and deep understanding of how GE technology is socially constructed within the US and NZ. Methodologies include cultural modeling of respondent discourse, media analysis of major newspapers and TV outlets utilized by participants, and analysis of historical literature as well as national identity and national branding literature. The US and NZ were chosen for comparison because both nations are economically dependent on their large agricultural sectors, yet their respective governments and general publics have responded with opposing positions to GE food and crops. GE technology is highly controversial. Proponents promote its potential to significantly increase global food production, improve food nutritional quality and decrease agrochemical use while opponents question its safety and morality. The research indicates that national identity and branding as well as cultural models of health and environment are important mediators of genetic engineering perceptions and partially account for GE’s adoption in the US and non-adoption in New Zealand. The findings also suggest that foundational schema found in respondent cultural models of health and the environment may be influencing media interpretations of GE coverage with respondents choosing to ignore media frames, which do not align with their preexisting cultural schema. By gaining an understanding of the cultural elements influencing the GE debate, a greater understanding of the roots of international conflict over biotechnology are garnered and this dissertation concludes by offering insights on how to improve communication during public debates between US and NZ stakeholders regarding GE technology.