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for a responsible, fair & sustainable food system

Beliefs and why they matter

This page is part of the We’ve Been Framed GM messaging guide

When we communicate with people, their response will be influenced by their personal beliefs, by the cultural norms in which they operate and by their own experiences. GM Freeze explored a wide range of beliefs about food, farming and the environment and identified the following as the ones most likely to help or hinder our ability to communicate our arguments effectively.

Enabling beliefs

Some commonly held beliefs are helpful to our cause. We want to appeal to these enabling beliefs because that will help people engage with the case against GM in food and farming. We have included an example for each to show you can reinforce the belief without having to actually state it.

We need to protect the environment

Allowing GMOs in our fields is gambling with the environment

Fair rules, properly enforced, protect us from harm

GM safeguards are an essential safety net, protecting us against things that can go wrong.

Big business puts profits before people

GM patents allow big corporations to exploit farmers around the world

The Government should act to protect us and nature from harm

Deregulation would give GM developers free rein with our food and our farms

Nature is powerful and complex

Resistant super-weeds have evolved in response to the use of weedkiller linked GMOs

You shouldn’t mess with things you don’t understand

We are only just beginning to understand the complex ways that different genes interact with each other and the environment around them

Barrier beliefs

Some commonly held beliefs are unhelpful to our cause. Those promoting GM in food and farming often appeal to these beliefs, for example when talking about the need to feed a growing population or saying that we must be “science led”. We want to avoid provoking these barrier beliefs because they will make it much harder to get our message across.

If we grow more food, fewer people will go hungry

Avoid talking about different ways to increase productivity and instead focus on food waste, unfair distribution and the impacts of poverty

Farming is a fundamentally good occupation

Avoid criticising farmers or farming in general – if you want to criticise particular farming practices, try talking about industrial food production or agrochemical corporations

Science can tell us whether or not something is safe

Avoid “the science says” arguments and focus on the bigger picture, plus the role of regulation as a safety net

Technological innovation leads to human progress

Avoid talking about genetic manipulation techniques as new or innovative – take care not to present them as exciting or a “step forward”

Progress relies on taking a few risks

Avoid talking about things that genetic manipulation could, theoretically, achieve.


Sometimes we get the chance to address problematic beliefs directly, but it is very difficult to get people to change their beliefs. We are much more likely to succeed by avoiding the barrier beliefs completely and appealing to the enabling beliefs that already support our case.


More in our Messaging Guide


Credits and collaboration

These webpages, the printer-friendly versions and the images you can download were all created as part of GM Freeze’s We’ve Been Framed project. The project was generously funded by the Network for Social Change, developed with input from the Public Interest Research Centre and delivered in collaboration with Framing Matters.

The We’ve Been Framed project benefited from the input of committed, enthusiastic and very creative individuals from a range of organisations including Beyond GM, EcoNexus, Food Matters, Garden Organic, GM Watch, Organic Farmers & Growers and the Soil Association. Thanks to all our collaborators.

This messaging guide is – and will always remain – a work in progress. We will update our recommendations as the external context develops and in response to feedback and our own experience. If you would like to make a comment or suggestion, please do so by emailing info[at]

We’ve Been Framed GM messaging guide © 2024 by GM Freeze is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International. The resources are based on material and workshops run by Framing Matters.

The animal icons on some of these pages are used by GM Freeze, under license from Flaticon. They are not ours to share so please do not copy or re-use them.