E. Ann Clark, University of Guelph, Canada
E. Ann Clark is an Associate Professor in the department of Plant Agriculture at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She wrote this piece in response to a widely reported survey which suggested UK farmers wanted to grow GMO crops (1). The first paragraph refers to the fact that the 30 farmers questioned for the survey were selected from a list provided by SCIMAC (the Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops). In their own words, “SCIMAC is a grouping of industry organisations along the UK farm supply chain, established in 1998 to support the carefully managed introduction of GM crops in the UK.” It is written as an open letter to British farmers and others considering growing GMO crops.
As I tell my students, how you frame the question predetermines the range of possible answers. This article demonstrates the corollary: how you pick your survey respondents predetermines the outcome. Did the authors of the research – Professor Andy Lane and Dr Sue Oreszczyn – actually intend their findings to be released now, or was it an inadvertent disclosure? Perhaps this small and patently selective sampling of farmer opinion – 30 ‘large-scale, commodity farmers — not those mainly involved in organic growing’ – was just a preliminary effort, to be followed up by a larger, statistically sound sampling? Or perhaps all British farmers are large-scale commodity growers, such that this small group could be considered representative?
… Continue Reading