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Consumer Attitudes toward Genetically Modified (GM) foods

24 Feb 2017Government and Law Essays

Consumer Attitudes toward Genetically Modified (GM) foods

Honored Chief Guest, distinguished scholars, entrepreneurs, ladies and gentlemen; I stand by here today to discuss my research concerning ‘Consumer attitude towards Genetically Modified (GM) crops and food’. Does it have a positive or negative effect on us? And why does it effect us in a big way? I assure after speech a lot of fog will be cleared and we will see light at the end of the tunnel.

Introduction

This speech outlines the purpose of GM in our lives and future and takes a stance as to which is better the GM food or the GMO.From simply selecting for desirable attributes in organisms, through Gregor Mendel's pea experiments, to modern day genetic recombinant techniques, man has sought to understand, harness and improve organisms that he deemed significant. Today however, genetic modification is shrouded by stereotypes and shunned by many which may impede its technological advancement.

Human safety is one of the main reasons for reserve when it comes to GMOs. Two main concerns over the safety of GMOs are allergenicity and unknown effects of GMOs on human health. Because genes are transferred between species, some feel that they pose a risk to consumers with regards to food allergies, claiming that consumers can be exposed to potentially immunoreactive proteins that do not occur naturally in a particular food. This is unlikely though, since any organism has thousands of different proteins, the probability of the transgene causing an allergic response is extremely rare, but never the less, GMOs are extensively studied prior to approval.
It is also believed that antibiotic resistance could be transferred from GMOs to human pathogens thus producing what the media call 'super-bugs' but these are also usually figments of imagination as GMOs have just as much chance of having their genetic material incorporated into pathogens as non-GMOs. Still, even though genetic modification of plants may have the potential to be harmful, these plants are tested comprehensively before being cultivated for human consumption.

A few years ago, scientists succeeded in transferring a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) to economical plants such as cotton and maize. What makes the use of the BT toxin more practical in agriculture is apart from being more cost effective than using pesticides they are also harmless to vertebrates. Although crossbreeding is known to occur often naturally, many laws reduce this possibility by prescribing minimum cultivation distances of GM crops from potentially cross-breeding species. The production of superior plants that can out-compete naturally occurring species is a great concern to many environmentalists. This would only be a serious danger to natural ecosystems if cultivated plants were not so highly domesticated and ubiquitous naturally. Furthermore, many GMOs have been made sterile to prevent the spread of their genetic material.

Recent Studies: Methodologies and Results

Probably driving most debates on GMO use is the underlying issue of economics. Agriculture is a business and businesses need to make money. However if returns are not made on GM investments than the production of newer and better genetic varieties are not worthwhile. 'Terminator technology' is a word often used by critics of GMOs, and its emotive nature brings fear. Terminator technology is the production of sterile GM cultivars and is essential in maintaining the demand for seed after every harvest. Although it makes farmers dependant on seed producers, the increased yield more than makes up for the seed costs. Furthermore, sterile cultivars have less of an impact on the environment by eliminating the chance of cross-breeding and the resultant spread of transgenes.

No easy solutions to these problems are likely to develop in the near future, but one can only attempt to when one fully understands all aspects of genetic modification. Whether for mans benefit or detriment, genetic modification technology is constantly progressing and its fate will be determined by those who use it. Although there are associated risks with the use of GMOs they is spreading across the world as they make the GM farmer more efficient, cheaper and competitive in the most essential industry in the world. GMOs are studied extensively by manufactures and independent sources even no long term studies have contributed to this market driven industry. In due course GMFs do pose a significant risk but there benefits seem to undoubtedly outweigh it.

Firstly, there is constant global competition to increase domiciliary prestige by way of the national economy. Unique and original methods of raising the economy are looked upon as advantageous. Introducing genetically modified foods (GMF) into the economy will give Canada the ability to provide itself with a substantial competitive advantage, by innovative agriculture and horticulture practices.

Secondly, the resuscitating effect genetically modified foods have on our deteriorating environment are evident through the reduction of herbicide usages and pest infestations. Changing the genetic make-up of agricultural crops works in favor of farm commerce, lessening the farmers labor load, while sustaining the environment. Generally, farmers use means of physical force (plough, tractor) to literally remove their crops. However, some farmers nevertheless cannot manually (age, disability) tend to their crops there to rely on the alternative: pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides. Not surprisingly, seventeen tons of herbicidal chemicals were used last year. Now I will come to the studies I have used and researched upon and what are its findings.

Study I

Methodology: This study was carried out in Taiwan to ascertain consumer’s responses to Tofu (a popular food substance) produced through genetic modification. Data for the study was collated through a nation-wide survey conducted via face-to-face interviews. The target population was the 18-65years age bracket. To ensure that the sample was representative of the Taiwanese population, stratified sampling technique according to the country’s administrative district, such as villages, towns and cities, was employed.

Results: This study by Man-ser Jan, Tsu-tan Fu and Chung L. Huang (2007) reported that among the 940 responses that were usable, only about 19% said they know something about GM technology. Furthermore, only about 27% of the respondents had any knowledge about GM food, while 49% indicated that they had heard about it but do not understand what it means, and another 24% had never heard about GM in food production. Measuring the attitudes towards GM through respondents risk perception towards GM, the study indicated that 38% of the respondents consider GM food to be ‘not safe’ or ‘not safe at all’, while 20% and 17% of the research participants were uncertain and did not know about GM risk, respectively. Only 25% of the participants thought GM food was safe. On whether they will be willing to buy GM foods, only about 30% were willing to buy GM foods, while 43% would not purchase GM foods and 27% were uncertain. Summing up this study’s results, the authors asserted that Taiwanese, as represented in the study sample, were less knowledgeable about GM food but tended to be more receptive of the technology than one would have expected.

Study II

Methodology: The study design employed was Conjoint/Logit Analysis. The authors explained that this research approach involves explicitly defining product attributes and asking consumers to choose products based on this attributes. Based on this idea, three observable attributes of Tofu was selected for consumers to choose from; these included: GM source, included in the label; brand name and price. This research was based on the assumption that consumers have negative perceptions of GM technology. Therefore, the study was intended to answer four questions about consumer attitudes to GM technology.
Results: Countries that use genetically modified foods will create and retain a knowledge base within corporate companies and scientists of the field. With the leading scientists of a field in one specific location, Canada could gain power through information by supporting and funding research to develop new bio-technologies. Genetically modified organisms have the potential to reduce cost for a business by means of decreased pesticide and fertilizer usages, leading to lower cost for a consumer. This stud conducted by Grunert, G. Klaus, Lone Bredahl and Joachim Scholderer (2003) reveals that:

  • Consumer attitudes towards GM in food production are negative—and for a sizeable proportion of consumers extremely negative—across a range of European countries. There do exist, however, national differences.
  • These negative attitudes guide the perception of food products involving the use GM and lead to a range of sweeping negative associations that overcompensate for potential benefits perceived.
  • These negative attitudes are embedded in a system of more general attitudes, especially attitude to nature, to technology, and alienation from the marketplace. They can therefore be said to be deeply rooted.
  • Consumer attitudes towards GM in food will not easily be changed by information. They may change, however, due to own experience with products produced using GM and involving clear consumer benefits (Grunert et al., 2003, p.444).

Study III

Methodology: The purpose of this paper was to determine consumer responses and willingness to purchase genetically modified tomatoes in the United States. A survey questionnaire instrument was employed for this study. A hypothetical scenario where GM produced tomatoes with slow ripening process, so that it can be plucked and transported without bruises, was created.

Results: Genetic modification has over recent years become one of the most debatable subjects in science, opposed mainly by religious, environmental and animal rights institutions for a variety of reasons, some substantiated but many not. Representatives of most of the worlds major religions argue that genetic modification is mans attempt to "play god". Many scientists on the other hand feel that religious bodies are trying to hamper scientific progress, without knowing the potential benefits. Although religion has in the past been seen as being at odds with the scientific community, many of the moral questions raised cannot be easily answered.
This study done by Bukenya, O. James and Natasha R. Wright (2007) indicates that except for income levels, sociodemographic characteristics had no significant effect on attitudes towards GM and willingness to purchase non GM food at a premium. However, looking at beliefs and awareness, the study showed that attitudes towards the use of GM in food and perceptions about safety had a primary effect on whether or not the population would purchase non GM tomatoes at a premium price. The study also indicated that GM labelling on food played a significant role in whether consumers would purchase GM food or not. In sum, the study showed that consumers would be willing to pay a premium of $0.398 or between 19-21% premiums for non GM tomatoes in order to avoid buying GM tomatoes. The implication of this study is that due to the negative attitudes towards GM foods, consumers are willing to pay higher prices for non GM foods, just to avoid buying GM food.

Findings

Concisely, Genetically Modified Foods are the key element in manufacturing consumer-specific products. They increase product diversity and have the potential to improve the economy. In regards to the environment, genetically engineered foods revitalize the environment by reducing the pesticides used, and thereby lessening the amount of chemical run-off exposed to our water systems, rivers and creeks. Respectively, the most beneficial outcome of genetically engineered foods is the gift of life given to starving people in third world countries, whom otherwise would die of vitamin deficiency or starvation, without GMF products like Golden Rice.
The opportunities provided by this technology are end less. One specific example, is soybean margarine which until recently contained high levels of trans-fatty acids (a natural substance which causes heart disease). Now, thankfully for GMF there is a new soybean which does not contain trans-fatty acids. These soybeans are a component of healthy margarines, and 'good for you' cheesecake. Therefore, GMF will aid those who are impoverished and malnourished as well as be present amid daily diets by decreasing potentially harmful elements.

Summary and Conclusion

In line with the results reported in this study, three major recommendations are in place:
Food producers and scientist should be aware that consumers are now more concerned about how their food is produced. Therefore, understanding consumers’ attitudes to food technology and using such knowledge proactively would make for better food products.

Consumer perception and attitudes should form a major plank of R & D policies. So that new technologies will be exposed to consumers before intense attitudes have been formed.
Increased education campaign highlighting the positive benefits of GM food products should end embarked upon to further increase consumer acceptance of the technology.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have profoundly have laid out the playing field for you concerning GM crops and food. It looks like the negativity of GM food and crops are higher than its positive aspects. I will let you judge what you think is the right option for us. I know what my answer will be. Tank You

References

  • Bukenya, O. James and Natasha R. Wright (2007). Determinants of Consumer Attitudes and Purchase Intentions With Regard to Genetically Modified Tomatoes. Agribusiness, 23 (1): 117–130.
  • Curtis, R Kynda and Klaus Moeltner (2007). The Effect of Consumer Risk Perceptions on the Propensity to Purchase Genetically Modified Foods in Romania. Agribusiness, 23 (2): 263–278.
  • Grunert, G. Klaus, Lone Bredahl and Joachim Scholderer (2003) Four questions on European consumers’ attitudes toward the use of genetic modification in food production. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies 4: 435–445
  • Man-ser Jan, Tsu-tan Fu and Chung L. Huang (2007) A Conjoint/Logit Analysis of Consumers’ Responses to Genetically Modified Tofu in Taiwan. Journal of Agricultural Economics, 58 (2): 330–347.

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