Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,117 U.S. consumers. It asked about their willingness to purchase genetically modified (GM) food and foods containing nanotech and qualifiers such as price, enhanced nutrition, improved taste and improved safety, and whether the food’s production had environmental benefits.
The results, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, showed that consumers are generally willing to pay more to avoid these technologies in their food, but that they are more accepting of it if there are health and safety benefits.
The researchers divided participants into four groups. The first were the “price-oriented,” who tend to base their decisions in grocery store aisles on the food’s cost regardless of the presence of the technologies. This group made up 23 percent of those surveyed.
The “technology averse” would buy GM or nanotech foods only if those products conveyed food safety benefits. They made up 19 percent of the participants.
“New technology rejecters” wouldn’t buy GM or nanotech foods under any circumstances and encompassed 18 percent of survey participants.
Forty percent of participants fit into the “benefit-oriented” group, which would buy GM or nanotech foods if they had enhanced nutrition or were safer.
“This tells us that GM or nanotech food products have greater potential to be viable in the marketplace if companies focus on developing products that have safety and nutrition benefits,” said Dr. Jennifer Kuzma, senior author of the paper on the research and co-director of the Genetic Engineering in Society Center at NC State. “From a policy standpoint, it also argues that GM and nanotech foods should be labeled, so that the technology rejecters can avoid them.”