On the Rhetoric of GMO
Keywords: Rhetoric, Pathos, Logos, Ethos, GMO, persuasion
This essay is meant to introduce the reader to the use of rhetoric when it comes to influence a process or persuade an audience to follow the rhetor’s idea. The example of the introduction of a GMO (genetic modified organism) is used as a vivid and real life case, where different stakeholders try to influence and give the general narrative a new spin. A rather rich bibliography offers plenty options to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of “Ethos”, “Logos” and last but not least “Pathos”.
There are fewer topics than GMO and its introduction to the agricultural sector in Europe that evoke more debates and lead to more heated exchanges of arguments. I took the concrete case of the introduction of DuPont’s “construction” 1507 to the European market to have a closer look which tools are used in order to gain influence / change policies.
Guzman found (de Guzman, 2008) that a commercialization of a crop could lead to an increased coverage in the media. During my limited research on this topic I was able to confirm this point and found plenty of articles and press releases related to the prospect introduction of the 1507 construct to the European market. So the case is about a genetic construct called 1507, that was co developed by DOW AgroScience and Pioneer (which is a branch of DuPont). So in this case it is about persuading the European commission to allow this crop to be found fit to be planted in the whole of Europe.
I understand rhetoric as a process to persuade stakeholders and change the course of action (Aristotle, 1992), that’s also why I have chosen Europe as the focus point. As I have found out during the process of information gathering, GMO is a global issue of importance (Bradford, 2014), but it takes an environment / political system that allows public and more or less transparent processes of persuasion. That was also one of the reason why I had to reject DuPont’s idea (see appendix) to look at the Chinese market and the introduction of GMO: There is no public process where stakeholder can express their fears / arguments.
Fraser argues (Fraser, 2013) that “persuasive techniques” to be used by anti-GMO groups in order to make an impact in the public pro/contra GMO discourse
GMO (“Genetically modified organism”) for DuPont´s 1507 construct basically means that the genes of a crop (like corn) is changed in a way, that:
- It produces a sort of poison that makes it inedible for pests like a caterpillar (to be precise it will kill the European borer) for example
- The crop will survive being sprayed with specific herbicides, while unwanted weed will get killed. So the genetics of that corn was changed in a way that makes it tolerant against certain herbicides (which are conveniently supplied exclusively by the developer of the 1507 maize)
The farmer is so forced not only to buy the see but also the corresponding herbicides from the same company, as the crop are genetically modified just withstand the provided herbicide. In a 2010 poll 58% of the interviewed European citizens found GMO food as unsafe for future generations (Levy-Abegnoli, 2015). So there is some persuasion needed to clear the way for this maize.
In the course of my little and limited research I have been in touch with:
- THE GREENS (political party both to be found in the German and European parliament)
- DuPont´s subsidiary Pioneer that is the businesunit in charge of agricultural business (I dealt with their representative office in Berlin as well their BU leader in Northern Germany)
In my essay I sort antipodes of this discourse in PRO GMO / CONTRA GMO advocates. I take a dialectic approach, i.e. trying to understand the rhetoric tools used by PRO & CONTRA advocates alike.
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Already the contact and info gathering process differed from PRO to CONTRA GMO advocate and especially DuPont’s communication shed an interesting light on rhetoric tools to be used at different stages of communication.
It was Cicero (McDonald Ian, 2013) who even suggested to knit in the “opponents” arguments into his on speech and I believe he did so not only to make his own speeches just more interesting but even more so much more convincing. “Know thyself, know thyr enemy” (Qun Tzu) leads to a deeper understanding of the opponents arguments and rhetoric “weapons”. By stating the opponents position in a correct way, the rethor pays respect to the reader / audience and appeals therefor to Ethos.
I believe this attempted introduction of the 1507 GMO “construct” to the EU might offer a workable example to see the usage of rhetoric tools used by two opponents, so it offers a dualistic view on a topic of interest.
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- Quote paper
- Guenther Klein (Author), 2015, On the rhetoric of GMOs. Ethos, Logos and Pathos, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/314342