GMO COMPASS - Information on genetically modified organisms
  Sep 30, 2014 | 9:52 pm
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Stories

International study: consumers would buy GM products


Genetically modified foods have generated an intense debate in Europe and, as surveys demonstrate, consumer perceptions in the majority are negative. Scientists from New Zealand now have investigated consumer attitudes towards genetically modified foods locally and in several European countries. To test buying behaviours in a realistic setting, the researchers conducted a practical experiment. The surprising result: the acceptance of GM foods is quite significant when they are cheaper than organic or conventionally produced foods.

 

The acceptance of GM foods in Europe usually is analysed by undertaking surveys among the public, since genetically modified foods are not being offered in food stores on a broader basis. New Zealander scientists tried practical tests on buying behaviour, which might provide a more realistic view of the consumer behaviour than do public surveys.

The scientists confronted consumers with a concrete buying situation, in which fresh fruits were offered at a roadside fruit stall. The fruits were categorised as biological, conventional and “spray-free genetically modified”. After purchasing, all consumers were informed about the experiment and that all foods were conventionally produced. Overall buying behaviour from 2,736 consumers in New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, France, the UK and Sweden was noted during the experiment, and the results have been published in the scientific publication Nature Biotechnology.
 
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Table 1: Percentage of market share of fruits from different production methods with the same price tag in percent.

Same price for bio-, conventional and GM fruits

In the first experimental setting, consumers were offered the three fruit categories at the same price. Approximately half of the consumers decided to buy organic products, one third conventional and roughly 20 percent “spray-free genetically modified” products. With this “same price” scenario, the researchers identified only minor differences between countries. 22 percent of German consumers decided to buy GM products. The lowest share of 17 percent for the genetically modified products was observed in the UK.

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Table 2: Percentage of market share of fruits from different production methods with different price tags.

Staggered prices for the fruits
In a second series of experiments, the fruit products were sold at different prices. The bio products were priced 15 percent higher than the conventional products, and GM products were offered 15 percent lower than the conventionally produced fruits. The consumers’ behaviour changed significantly compared to the first series of experiments in which all products had the same price.

In most countries, the demand on the budget-priced GM fruits exceeded a market share of over 30%, and in Germany, Sweden and New Zealand, GM products reached a higher share than bio or conventional products. GM products reached 36% in Germany, 43% in Sweden and 60% in New Zealand. Only in Belgium, the majority of consumers remained devoted to the biological products despite their relatively high cost.

Market acceptance of GM foods: better than expected?
Most surveys of consumer behaviour in Europe have found little inclination towards purchasing GM products. However, the results of this new study demonstrate that the acceptance of GM foods might be much higher than anticipated. The scientists accounted for this “surprisingly high” result as being derived from a lower price coupled with consumer benefit - i.e., the “spray-free” status of the genetically modified fruits. According to the scientists, these findings are in line with the Eurobarometer report of 2006. In this EU-wide survey on behalf of the European Commission, around one third of surveyed Europeans expressed a willingness to buy GM-products if they contain less pesticide or if they provide an additional price advantage in comparison with conventional products. The results also imply that GM foods may prove to become much more accepted than was previously expected, provided that there is a clear statement of consumer benefit. 

 

 


An EU Research Project

What are the risks of growing GM crops?

What are the benefits?

Numerous studies have addressed the potential impacts of genetically modified (GM) plants. Yet the existing evidence on the effects of GM plants is often contradictory and the quality of scientific research varies widely.

Therefore, the GRACE project will establish new tools for assessing the quality of existing studies and will conduct comprehensive reviews to identify health, environmental and socio-economic impacts of GM plants.

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