MADISON, WI, OCTOBER 20, 2009 -- Communication between the public and government is a necessary component of public trust. For many modern issues, constituents trust that their legislators understand the science behind these topics and pass legislation for the betterment of society. While science has its uncertainties, much of that public trust is subsequently transferred to the scientists who inform legislators. Past studies show that scientists were seen as trustworthy sources of information; however, the public would like scientists to be more open, sharing their scientific knowledge through information sources such as mass media. For an issue as debated as agricultural biotechnology, communicating factual scientific information is a necessary ingredient in public acceptance.
Dr. Gary Wingenbach, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications at Texas A&M University, collected data from 2004 to 2005 to examine current and possible future legislators' perceptions of biotechnology. Also, data collected on information sources used by respondents to learn more about agricultural biotechnology helped the authors understand the impact of media types when communicating the science of biotechnology to others. Results from this study have been published in a recent edition of the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.
Two groups selected for this descriptive study included elected state officers of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization and Texas House and Senate legislators. The National FFA provides opportunities for high school and college students to increase their knowledge of agriculture and develop leadership skills. The group was chosen because state FFA officers have a propensity for seeking elected public offices.
Both groups relied on the Internet and newspapers as sources for agricultural biotechnology. However, Texas legislators used the Coo
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American Society of Agronomy