GMO doublespeak: An analysis of power and discourse in Canadian debates over agricultural biotechnology

  • Wesley Tourangeau University of Waterloo


It has been 20 years since Canada’s first commercially grown genetically modified (GM) crops were approved and debates over these contentious products continue to gain momentum. Literature exploring Canada’s GMO debates has yet to focus specifically on the discourse of pro-biotech public relations campaigns and anti-biotech movements. This paper helps fill this gap with an analysis of power relations regarding efforts to inform public opinion on the topic of agricultural biotechnology. This paper explores these power relations in two arguments. First, I argue that the Canadian state’s overall positive position toward agricultural biotechnology provides leverage to pro-biotech public relations, while delimiting the direction of anti-biotech campaigns. Second, I argue that the potency of pro-biotech frames are constituted and sustained by historically and culturally embedded norms and values, which adds additional challenges for anti-biotech campaigns. These findings uncover a clearer picture of the complexity of power relations within agri-biotech discourse, and the extent to which anti-biotech groups are disadvantaged in these debates.

Original Research Article