Determinants of consumer attitudes and purchase intentions with regard to genetically modified foods - Results of a cross-national survey
1. Previous research has shown consumers to be highly sceptical towards genetic modification in food production. So far, however, little research has tried to explain how consumers form attitudes and make decisions with regard to genetically modified foods. 2. The paper presents the results of a survey which was carried out in Denmark, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom to investigate the formation of consumer attitudes towards genetic modification in food production and of purchase decisions with regard to genetically modified yoghurt and beer. Altogether, 2031 consumers were interviewed in the four countries. 3. Results show that attitude formation and decision-making are more comparable among Danish, German and British consumers than with Italian consumers. Likewise, Italian consumers turned out to be significantly less negative towards genetic modification in foods than particularly Danish and German consumers. This points to a possible North-South division in consumer perceptions of genetic modification. 4. Across countries, attitudes towards genetic modification in food production were deeply embedded in more general attitudes held by the consumers, in particular attitude towards nature and attitude towards technology. These general attitudes were found to influence attitudes towards genetic modification through their impact on perceived risks and benefits of the technology. In Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom, perceived risks of applying genetic modification in food production in themselves prevented the perception of benefits, while in Italy the impacts of perceived risks and benefits on attitudes were identified as entirely additive. 5. Purchase decisions with regard to the two product examples were almost exclusively determined by attitudes towards purchasing the products, which were, in turn, significantly influenced by overall attitudes towards genetic modification in food production through their effects on beliefs that consumer hold about the quality and trustworthiness of the products. 6. The results clearly verify that consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods is low at present. The strong links of attitudes towards genetic modification in food production to higher-order attitudes and knowledge domains suggest that attitudes towards genetically modified foods are quite strong, despite their lack of basis in actual product experience. Likewise, the strong relation of product-specific attitudes to overall attitudes towards genetic modification in food production suggests that at present consumers tend to reject the technology overall rather than to consider products on a case-by-case basis. This situation may, however, be changed by a possible increased availability of genetically modified food products on the consumer market.
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- East, Robert, 1993. "Investment decisions and the theory of planned behaviour," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 337-375, June.
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