Is cynicism towards biotech foods largely a European 'problem'? New research from the US suggests that the tide could be turning with the American consumer, traditionally more accepting of genetically modified foods, becoming more vigilant.
According to a recent bulletin from the US department of Agriculture (USDA), the US consumer desire to pay for food products decreases when the food label indicates that a food product is produced with the aid of modern biotechnology.
The USDA bulletin presents empirical evidence on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods based on the presence or absence of labels advising that the food was prepared with the aid of biotechnology.
The authors, Abebayehu Tegene, Wally Huffman, Matthew Rousu, and Jason Shogren designed and conducted an experimental auction to elicit consumers' willingness to pay for 'genetically modified' (GM)-labelled and standard-labelled foods under different information regimes.
According to the researchers, the evidence gathered for vegetable oil, tortilla chips, and potatoes shows that labels matter. In particular, under all information treatments, consumers discounted food items labelled 'GM' by an average of 14 per cent. While gender, income, and other demographic characteristics appeared to have only a slight impact on consumers' willingness to pay for biotech foods, information from interested parties and third-party (independent) sources was found to have a strong impact.
The full findings can be accessed on the USDA website.