Here, semantic network analysis is performed to characterize the presentation of the term “GMO (genetically modified organism),” a proxy for food developed from GE crops, on the web. Texts from three sources are analyzed: U.S. federal websites, top pages from a Google search, and online news titles. We found that the framing and sentiment (positive, neutral, or negative attitudes) of “GMO” varies across these sources.
Only 10% of the most central words were shared by all three sources, while a much larger proportion (between 42–78%) of words were unique to each source. This indicates that information about food derived from GE crops is portrayed differently by federal websites, highly trafficked websites, and online news. For example, we found that online news titles were unique in their use of terms suggestive of argumentation, including ban, fight, debate, challenge, kill, and battle….
This focus on argumentation and controversy may impart a lack of confidence in the safety or usefulness of commercially available GE products. Alternatively, federal websites’ unique use of words related to the regulatory process, including regulation, protection, ensure, evaluate, review, and assessment, may invoke trust in the safety of commercial GE crops.
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