Genetic Protection Initiative

deadstructureBiotechnology

Dec 14, 2012 (4 years and 10 months ago)

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Expertise, media debate and
public dialogue in biotechnology


The case of the Swiss “Genetic Protection Initiative”

and the publiforum on “Genetic engineering and nutrition”

Christian Suter

University of Neuchâtel

Outline of the talk


The “Genetic Protection Initiative” of 1998 and
the context of our research


Experts’ debate on risks, benefits and ethics of
GMO applications


The media debate on the “Genetic Protection
Initiative”


Participatory technology assessement in
biotechnology: the publiforum on “Genetic
engineering and nutrition” (1999)


Concluding remarks


The “Genetic Protection Initiative”


June 7, 1998: 67% of Swiss voters rejected the
so
-
called „Genetic Protection Initiative“, which
demanded restriction in biotechnological
research and production


Aim of our research project:


describe and understand the debate between the
scientific experts and “counter” experts


describe and understand the debate in the media


describe and assess the discourse on risks and
benefits of GMO between experts and lay people in
the context of procedures of participatory of
technology assessement (the publiforum on “Genetic
engineering and nutrition”)




Methods and data


Experts discourse


Selection of ca. 200 experts by means of a quasi
-
delphi with 600 potential experts (spring 1997)


Written questionnaire winter 1997/98 (n=136)


Oral interviews with selected experts (n=51)


Media discourse


Media coverage in 19 newspapers and magazines
between November 1, 1997 and June 30, 1998

(2310 articles and 627 ads)


Participatory technology assessement:


Written questionnaires with the lay participants of the
publiforum, experts, politicians (before and after the
publiforum), participation/observation of publiforum


Media coverage of the publiforum

The experts: a small and
hierarchically structured field

Experts: Research design

Experts‘ assessment of


risks (A) benefits (B) ethics (C)



Media debate

Selected newspaper and magazines





Intensity of the media debate

(number of kilobytes and number of articles by language region)



The experts in the media

(by language region)


Topics of the media debate in
German speaking Switzerland


Topics of the media debate in French
and Italian speaking Switzerland


Weekly number of Advertisments

(pros and cons in 14 newspapers of German speaking Switzerland)


Publiforum on “Genetic
engineering and nutrition”



Publiforum: a group of citizens meets experts in
order to debate a controversial issue (consensus
conferences, citizens’ panels etc.)


Organized by TA
-
Swiss (1999); procedure:


Selection of a group of citizens (28 persons, at random)


Experts (pros and cons) are asked for participation


The citizens are introduced to the topic


The citizens work out a catalogue of questions and
appoint the experts


In a public event the experts answer the questions


The citizens write a report with recommendations


The report is presented to the public, politics, the media

Evaluation of procedure and
impact of the publiforum


Very positive evaluation of procedure by all actors (e.g.
ability of citizens to quickly learn about a complex topic
and to successfully draft a final report, high quality of the
final report; but there was no genuine debate).


No impact on political decision
-
making


Change from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations


Very few contacts of citizens with stakeholders after the
publiforum (except for civil society organizations)


No impact on administration, parliament, government; no
timing with the political agenda


No impact on public and media debate


disappointing media coverage


Only very few media contacts of citizens

Concluding remarks


Experts’ debate: small number of discourse actors with a
dominance of scientific experts and a principal
antagonism between scientific experts on the on hand
and environmental and animal protection associations on
the other hand. Controversial issues have been less
pronounced than expected.


Successful media campaign (“framing”) of the scientific
experts (in German speaking Switzerland)


Importance of the cultural context


Publiforum: partial “de
-
monopolization of expertise”
(Ulrich Beck, Brian Wynne) but only few impacts on
decision
-
making processes and on the public debate.