ABSTRACT OF PAPER
Title: A Sales Experiment in Switzerland and What it Reveals about Attitude-Behavior Consistency towards GM Food
Author: Aerni Philipp
In 2005, Swiss voters confirmed the prevailing negative public attitude towards genetic engineering in agriculture by approving a national referendum to ban GMOs from Swiss agriculture for five years. This in spite of the fact, that the Swiss legislature already passed a law on genetic engineering in agriculture (Genlex) in 2004 that is regarded as one of the most restrictive in the world. In 2009, the Swiss Federal Council decided to roll over the moratorium for another three years. But how strong is this political preference against genetic engineering in food and agriculture in Switzerland? After all, most Swiss people can not count on any concrete experience with genetically modified crops since they are not grown in the field, hardly ever examined in school laboratories and not available in retail stores. Experiments on revealed consumer preferences in Europe suggest that there might indeed be an inconsistency between the largely negative attitude towards GMOs revealed in public opinion surveys and actual purchasing behavior of European consumers when confronted with a choice that includes labeled GM food (Kalaitzandonakes et al. 2005; Consumerchoice, 2008). However, it turns out that most people who buy food in the supermarket labeled as containing a GMO ingredient are not aware of it because they do not look at labels (Grunert & Wills, 2007). In addition it does not make sense to track consumers in the supermarkets after their purchase and ask them about their prior opinion towards genetic engineering in agriculture. Our large-scale direct-marketing experiment addresses the limitations of previous studies by comparing revealed consumer preferences at the market stand with prior stated consumers preferences. For that purpose, we recruited local selling groups to sell three bread types labeled as made with ‘organic corn’, ‘genetically modified corn’ (Bt-11) and ‘conventional corn’ at five different locations in Switzerland. Customers who decided to buy bread at one of our market stands also received an envelope containing a questionnaire about their prior political preference expressed through their voting decision in a national referendum on a five-year ban on GMOs in 2005. The results of the study show no relationship between prior political preference and revealed consumer preferences at the market stand. It indicates that attitude-behavior consistency among Swiss consumers is quite weak. References ConsumerChoice (2008) Do Europeans Buy GM Foods? European Commission: Framework 6, Project no. 518435. London: Final Report. King’s College, http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/biohealth/research/nutritional/consumerchoice Grunert, W. & Wills, J. M. (2007). A review of European research of research on consumer response to nutrition information on food labels. Journal of Public Health, 15, 385-399. Kalaitzandonakes, N., Marks, L. A., & Vickner, S. S. (2005). Sentiments and acts towards genetically modified foods. International Journal of Biotechnology, 7, 161-177.
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