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Crop Biotech Update

Bias-language Study About GM Crops Reveals Positive Stance About Genetic Modification

July 21, 2021

A group of scientists from the United States and Sweden analyzed peer-reviewed journal articles about genetically modified (GM) crops to determine if they contain language bias affected by social and linguistic factors. Several interesting conclusions were derived, including articles discussing Bt genetic modification corresponded to a positive stance.

The researchers initially selected more than 1,800 journal articles published from 2000 to 2018. These were classified into positive, negative, and neutral. After several classifications and analyses using several tools such as ANOVA, Biber POS Tagger, Random Forest Model, and others, the articles were narrowed down to 230 in PDF format and the following results were drawn:

  • Forty percent (40%) of the articles had a positive or negative stance towards GM crops;
  • Articles with a negative stance were more common in the early 2000s;
  • The top three regions with the highest positive stance are China, the United States, and the European Union;
  • Articles that had a positive stance were more likely to be funded by private organizations;
  • Articles discussing the Bt genetic modification corresponded to positive stances; and
  • Based on public opinion polls and indirect opinions identified in the study, political and social factors may play a role in the ratio of positive to negative stance articles from different regions.

To conclude, the researchers found that peer-reviewed articles on GM crops contain language bias, and suggest that the possibility of an automated tool to screen manuscripts for unintended biased language before publication may be used in the future.

Read the full article in Environmental Research Letters.

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