Date of Award

8-12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory C. Lisby

Second Advisor

Dr. Carrie Packwood Freeman

Third Advisor

Dr. Jaynette L. Atkinson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Gloria Ruiz

Abstract

The debate surrounding one’s right to know what is in one’s food has increased in popularity since 2012 when California became the first state to vote on Proposition 37 which would have mandated the labeling of genetically modified organisms. Proposition 37 was defeated due to the public relations campaign mounted by Monsanto and other corporate sponsors of genetically engineered seeds. Utilizing both a visual and written content analysis, this study identified the ethically problematic public relations strategies within the campaign to defeat Proposition 37, while also examining the content to determine whether the strategic communication must be classified as commercial or political speech pursuant to the First Amendment. Even though the campaign was found to be ethically problematic when applying the five elements of the TARES Test, it was beneficial to expand those components for future evaluations regarding all issues when a corporate speaker is involved in advocacy.

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