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Research suggests Russia keen to turn US against GMOs

Russian news agencies appear to have conducted a "co-ordinated campaign" to turn US public opinion against GMOs, according to a studyby Iowa State University (ISU) researchers.

Russian news agencies appear to have conducted a "co-ordinated campaign" to turn US public opinion against GMOs, according to a study by Iowa State University (ISU) researchers.

The study's authors say that the effort appears to be intended to sow discord in the US and help Russian agriculture by fueling controversy about the safety of genetic engineering. "The recent branding of Russian agriculture as the ecologically clean alternative to genetically engineered foods is suggestive of an economic motive behind the information campaign against western biotechnologies," according to the ISU researchers. Russia banned the cultivation of genetically modified crops in 2016.

The study, which has not been peer reviewed, analysed articles containing the term "GMO" that were posted in 2016 by two Russian-funded news operations -- RT and Sputnik -- along with those posted by MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, Breitbart and Huffington Post.

The researchers found that RT and Sputnik published 53% of the articles containing "GMO". In contrast to the other US news sources, GMOs were "almost always presented negatively" by the Russian news agencies -- often as "click bait" that had little to do with genetic engineering, according to the study.

 "Instead, the topic of GMOs was injected in a tangential way (at best) or as clear non-sequitur (at worst)," the ISU researchers said. "GMO click bait occurred in articles focused on topics generally considered negative or distasteful to most people, an indication that the insertions were designed to create latent associations between GMOs and negative emotions."

The finding "strongly implicates Russian News as a central, if largely unknown, purveyor of anti-GMO information", according to the researchers, who have yet to investigate the effectiveness of the Russian efforts.

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