Linkages between ecocentric values and action in expert discourse: the case of genetically modified food in the UK

  • Peter Quaife

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Attitudes towards the environment can be manifest in two broad categories, namely anthropocentric and ecocentric. The former regards nature as of value only insofar as it is useful to humanity, whereas the latter assigns intrinsic value to natural entities. Industrial society can be characterised as being dominated by anthropocentrism, which leads to the assumption that a majority of people hold anthropocentric values. However, research shows the most widely held values are ecocentric, which implies that many people's actions are at variance with their values. Furthermore, policy relating to environmental issues is predominantly anthropocentric, which implies it is failing to take account of the values of the majority. Research among experts involved in policy formulation has shown that their values, often ecocentric, are excluded from the policy process. The genetic modification of food can be categorised as anthropocentric, which implies that the technique is in conflict with widely held ecocentric values. This thesis examines data collected from interviews with individuals who have an influence on the debate surrounding the introduction of genetically modified foods, and can be considered 'experts'. Each interviewee is categorised according to whether their values and actions are ecocentric or anthropocentric, and the linkages between the two and the arguments used to justify their positions are explored. Particular emphasis is placed on interviewees who have ecocentric values but act professionally in an anthropocentric way. Finally, common themes are drawn out, and the features the arguments used by the interviewees have in common are outlined.
Date of AwardSept 1999
Original languageEnglish


  • linkages
  • ecocentric values
  • expert discourse
  • genetically modified food
  • UK

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