563   Individual paper

From Food to Politics: Representations of genetically modified organisms in cartoons on the Internet in China

Problems around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are becoming increasingly acute in China. To better understand the situation, 257 GMO cartoons were collected from various Chinese online sources. The comics collected were mainly published between 2013"“2017. Image coding was completed independently by five, well-trained graduate students, according to the following variables: figures in the pictures,story context,GMO carrier, scary information attitude to GMOs, source of comics, and theme. The validity test result showed that the coders"overall coding consistency reached 92.8%.

From the perspective of content, it was found that 84.5% of the cartoons involve genetically modified (GM) food, mainly plant-based food, and 62.9% of the cartoons present food consumption environments. "To eat or not to eat GMOs" is an issue of common concern in China.

The Chinese media and the public are demonstrating increasing skepticism of and opposition to GMOs. Only 15% of the total samples of comics show GMOs in a positive light, and, while the mainstream media are fairly neutral, social media tends to present more hostile views. In terms of theme, mainstream media tend to present the dilemma in choice but also promote GMOs, while social media posts mostly focus on the themes of health risks and conspiracy theories.

The tendency to politicize GMOs has been vividly depicted in many Chinese GMO comics. Controversial topics such as the "golden rice" incident and the return of GM maize in the United States have provided space for political conspiracy theories to spread. Scientists supporting GMOs have been criticized by the public under suspicion of betraying their country. The issue of GM food in China, therefore, reflects strong political problems.

Co-author: Lingfei Wang
University of Science and Technology of China, China

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