The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)
Environmental Attitude and
Consumers Acceptance of Genetically Modified Food:
The Relationship Between Preferences for GM Foods and
Components of Ecological World View
Jack Coburn Isaacs
Department of Agriculture
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Concern over the consumers acceptance of genetically modified foods has been derived mainly from uncertainty regarding their impact on human health and the environment. Individuals who are worried over possible negative ecological ramifications are more likely to support restrictive regulatory policies and to curtail purchases of GM products. An understanding of the nature and nuances of environmental attitudes will be beneficial.
Individuals are rarely simply "pro-environment" or "anti-environment." Environmental attitudes differ in fervency or intensity, what Turner, Pearce, and Bateman (1993) call "shades of greenness." Persons who are vary in the strength of their environmental attitudes may demonstrate different consumption preferences for genetically modified foods. Strongly convicted environmentalists may definitely reject them while persons with weak environmental attitudes may consume them with no reservations. Persons with moderate environmental views, on the other hand, may hold qualms about genetically modified food but not be so concerned that they avoid them all together.
Much as the environment is a multifaceted amenity, environmental attitudes are varied and complex. Environmental attitudes may contain diverse components, ranging from practical concerns about the balance of nature to more philosophical positions about the role of humans in nature. Persons with ecological feelings of similar intensity may nevertheless differ in regards to specific components of their ecological world views. Such individuals may thus hold divergent views on the acceptability of genetically modified foods.
This paper proposes to investigate the links between various aspects of environmental attitudes to the acceptance of GM foods. This paper will employ the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), a survey-based analytical scale for measuring individuals environmental attitudes. In addition to providing a numerical measure of overall environmental attitude, the fifteen-question NEP can provide a measure of respondents attitudes toward various factors or domains within that global environmental view. Past research has suggested the existence of five factors including fragility of the balance of nature, the possibility of ecological crisis, limits to growth, anti-anthropocentricism, and the rejection of human exceptionalism.
This research will use the results of a survey of Louisiana residents and will compare the environmental attitudes of individuals who reject GM foods to those who accept them. Factor analysis will be employed to investigate the results of the NEP for this survey for the existence of differences in the various components of environmental attitude.
Other sections of the survey elicit the respondents familiarity with and knowledge of genetically modified products, confidence in government regulation and the industrys economic activities, and socioeconomic variables. These parameters will be combined with environmental attitudinal measures to assess consumers acceptance of genetically modified foods.