The rejection of science frames in the news coverage of the golden rice experiment in Hunan, China

Jinjie Yang, Kaibin Xu, Lulu Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, we examine the ways in which media frames and rhetorical devices in the Chinese media shaped the representation of the genetically modified (GM) golden rice. We draw on a study of Chinese media representations of an experiment designed to test the efficacy of golden rice as a source of Vitamin A using school children in China's Hunan province as subjects. The study analysed Chinese web news stories about the Hunan experiment posted between 30 August 2012 (when Greenpeace first reported on the issue) and 30 October 2012. This experiment resulted in allegations of breaches in scientific protocols and created a hostile public reaction. The incident fuelled the long-standing debate about the risks and benefits of GM crops in China. In this article, we analyse 25 online news reports, examining the attitudinal orientation of the articles, the readers' comments on the articles and GM crops, the writing style and rhetorical devices employed, the emotions provoked and the frames manifest and embedded in these articles and comments. We found that although only one-third of the articles manifested an obviously negative attitude towards golden rice and GM foods, their use of strident metaphors and analogies were designed to arouse readers' fear and concerns about GM crops. In the anti-golden rice articles, we identified conspiracy frames, including the view that the West was using genetic engineering to establish global control over agriculture and that GM products were instruments for genocide. The pro-golden rice articles emphasised the scientific humanitarian progress, but it appears to be less attractive to the readers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-354
Number of pages16
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014


  • China
  • discourse analysis
  • genetically modified crops
  • golden rice
  • media frames
  • risk
  • risk communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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