The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

 

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"Consumer Acceptance of Agricultural Biotechnology: The Role of Labeling on Risk Perceptions and Food Demand"
Professor Lydia Zepeda
University of Wisconsin

Zepeda@calshp.cals.wisc.edu

Public acceptance of biotechnology for the production of food varies from country to country, within countries by socio-economic characteristics, and by food application. Resistance appears to be concentrated among those countries and people with relatively higher incomes. It also appears to be focused more on animal product applications rather than plant applications. Concerns vary from perceived personal health risks to social concerns about farmers and the environment. This paper explores why consumers’ risk perceptions may differ from those of scientists and regulatory agencies and the extent to which those risk perceptions may affect demand for food products.

In particular, the influence of Hadden’s outrage factors on heightening risk perceptions is examined. Because foods produced through biotechnology are often indistinguishable from conventionally produced foods, individual consumers are often unable to give informed consent in the consumption of biotechnology produced foods. How does this lack of a means of exiting the market for biotechnology produced food affect consumer’s risk perceptions and ultimately their demand for the food products?

The paper explores the role of labeling as a means of permitting informed consent to mitigate outrage factors, which might otherwise adversely affect consumer demand for biotechnology produced food. The presence of labeling in reducing risk perceptions and promoting consumer acceptance of biotechnology in the production of food is examined. A model is developed to explore the linkages between outrage factors, risk perceptions and food demand. The role of labeling in modifying consumer demand behavior is explored in the context of this model. Policy recommendations based on the empirical findings are outlined.