Categories of GM Risk-Benefit Perceptions and Their Antecedents
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The stated benefits and perceived risks of genetic modification (GM) cover very diverse issues, such as food safety, world food security, and the environment, that may differentially affect consumer acceptance. In this research, we hypothesize that consumers perceive up to eight dimensions: risks to business (farmers, agribusiness, etc.), benefits to business, risks and benefits to the environment, risks and benefits to the developing world, and risks and benefits to self and family. Moral concerns are also recognized. Using data collected in 2002 in the United States, France, and the UK, we investigate these different dimensions. Second, we analyze the extent to which the dimensions of risk-benefit perceptions can be explained by general attitudes widely used to explain food purchase behavior (such as general attitude to the environment, to technology, etc.), as well as by perceived knowledge of GM, level of education, and trust in various sources of information. In all locations, the majority of consumers only perceive a medium level of risk from GM products. Attitude to technology is the most important attitude variable—those with a positive attitude to technology in general also have a positive attitude to GM technology. More Americans than Europeans fall into this category. Those who trust government and the food industry tend to think GM technology is less risky, whereas those who trust activists believe the opposite. Americans are more trusting of the former, Europeans of the latter. Level of education is positively associated with benefit perceptions and negatively associated with moral concerns. Location continues to play a limited independent role in explaining perceptions even after these factors have been taken into account.
AgBioForum, 7(4) 2004: 176-186.