The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

Non technical abstract

Environmental Attitudes and
Consumers’ Acceptance of Genetically Modified Foods:

The Relationship Between Preferences for GM Foods and Components

Of Ecological World-View.


Jack Coburn Isaacs

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.A.  70898



  Genetically modified (GM) foods and other forms of biotechnology have encountered resistance from numerous citizen and governmental groups.  Reluctance to accept or approve the products of these new forms of technology has been tied to concerns over possible deleterious effects on human health, farmers’ welfare and the structure of agribusiness, and the environment.

  This research attempted to compare the environmental attitudes of individuals who are willing to consumer GM foods with those individuals who are reluctant to purchase them.  Environmental attitudes were measured through the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), a fifteen-item attitudinal scale developed by Dunlap and Van Liere.  The NEP provides a summative scale of environmental attitudes, a single metric that measures the strengths of an individual’s environmental attitudes.

  In addition to this single numerical scale, the NEP can be used to examine the relative strengths of subordinate environmental factors or domains that contribute to one’s ecological world-view.  Previous research has uncovered five domains within the NEP: limits to growth, fragility of the balance of nature, anti-anthropocentricism, rejection of human exceptionalism, and the possibility of ecological collapse.

  To measure environmental attitude and other factors that might influence the consumers’ acceptance of GM foods, a survey was sent to a sample of residents in the ten-largest counties or parishes in the state of Louisiana.  The survey solicited information on food purchasing practices, beliefs regarding food safety and governmental food quality regulation, likelihood of accepting GM food products, the NEP, and socioeconomic characteristics.

  Respondents were separated on the basis of their expressed likelihood of purchasing GM food products.  The responses to various questions by those willing to consume GM foods were compared with those of respondents who were unwilling to consume them.

  There were no significant differences in food label reading practices, familiarity with GM, or opinions regarding the importance of mandatory labeling of GM products.  Individuals who were unwilling to buy GM foods were less likely to think GM foods were safe and were less likely to think that government agencies have done a good job at insuring food safety in the past.  They were also less sure that computer technology is an important factor in improving the quality of life.

  Non-acceptors of GM food do have a more “pro-environmental” world-view than GM acceptors, as measured by the NEP summative scale.  An examination of individual items within the fifteen-question NEP suggests that GM non-acceptors are more likely to hold stronger attitudes regarding anti-anthropocentricism, the fragility of the balance of nature, and the possibility of ecological collapse.

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