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Poster: Chauhan

Can discourses be effectively communicated to propel scientific outcomes and dismiss public skepticism?: A special focus on BT-Brinjal (eggplant) case"

Ritika Chauhan (Ritika Ritika)
Graduate candidate, Department of communication, media and film
University of Calgary
Previous: Master of Science, University of Toronto

In linguistics, the definition of ‘Statement’ can be as simple as it is ‘an expression’. However, within the field of discourse, statements depend on the condition in which they emerge and exist. For example, a grammatically correct sentence may still lack meaning and inversely, an incorrect sentence may still be meaningful. In this sense, statements themselves are not propositions, utterances, or speech acts. Rather, statements create a network of rules establishing what is meaningful, and it is these rules that are the preconditions for propositions, utterances, or speech acts to have meaning. These meanings, often through the medium of discourses create our understanding of our social world and the hence form the basis of human social structures and polity. Pondering into this ideology put forth by Michel Foucault in his work Archeology of Knowledge, I aim at understanding the complexities of statements in form of discourses in matters of scientific endeavours which are regarded as ‘true’ and form the basis of human understanding of science and the very own existence of human technological progress. Specifically, the research aims to achieve a degree of public awareness and understanding of genetically modified food/crops (GM foods) and the role of scientific discourses by which  GM foods are understood (or misunderstood). This will be done by looking into public discourses of various stakeholders such as government, non-government organisations, scientists, agriculture corporates who are directly or indirectly involved innovation process of agriculture Biotechnology and GM technology for food. I will plan to study these discourses in respect of the specific case of BT-brinjal (eggplant)* case of India which is regarded as one of the most controversial case around social acceptance of gene technology. Hence, drawing on the Foucauldian theory of knowledge and power and his ideology on discourses, the broader aim is to ponder relationships among scientific discourses to create human knowledge. How the messages regarding new discoveries are propagated through various media and how these messages affect people’s perception around those discoveries to ultimately result in a social acceptance or rejection.  

* BT-Brinjal (eggplant) is the first locally developed edible genetically modified crop in India by the joint venture of US based agriculture giant Monsanto and India based corporate Mahyco which was to be approved for commercialization in 2010 and but was subsequently rescinded because  of socio-political pressure from the public, media and anti-GMO activists. It is one of the more recent and most controversial demonstrations of challenges in acceptance of new technologies in agriculture in developing countries.