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Frames in dispute: the effects of risk frames on the GMOs politics in Brazil

Open Panel

Abstract

This paper discusses the role of risk discourse in the contentious politics over GM food policy in Brazil. Risk is considered as a discursive strategy to oppose the political decision to adopt a new technology. Using the analytical framework of contentious politics, risk will be treated as a specific type of political claim making in order to see how the GMOs issue is framed (Goffman, 1974, Ferree et. al, 2002, Gamson and Modigiliani, 1989; Rucht et. al., 2008). The empirical research identifies and measures "risk" as part of the public discourse on GMOs policy that takes place at the mediated public sphere. Drawing on political communications research, specially on the political claim-making method (Koopmans and Straham, 2010), newspaper articles from the biggest nation-wide newspaper are collected per key-word search from years 2000-2008 and submitted to content analysis. The main hypothesis is that the use of risk frames in the contention over GMOs policy deviates the media attention from the issues at stake about the new technology by shifting focus to frames relating to the political competence over the decision-making. While the results describe the process of frame building by specifying what frames are present in media discourse and how frequently, this study does not intend an evaluation of the effect of media frames on citizens’ cognitive schema. This is not only due to the methodological pitfalls of survey studies to make inferences about effects of media system into public opinion, specially in ambivalent issues such as technology acceptance (Gamson and Modigliani, 1989), but mainly because of the focus on the relations between media discourse and institutional arrangements. The main assumption is that mediated communications dominate the production and struggle over the framing of an issue, making meanings available to legitimize political decisions.