Consumer Perception of Organic and Genetically Modified Foods : Health and Environmental Considerations
Abstract: The aim was to study consumer attitudes to and perceptions of organic and genetically modified (GM) foods and factors influencing the purchase/non purchase of these two types of foods. Data were collected by two questionnaire surveys (random nation-wide samples of 2000 consumers, response rate 58% and 39% respectively) and one interview study (n=40).A majority of the consumers had positive attitudes towards purchasing organic foods but few reported purchasing organic foods regularly. The most common beliefs about organic foods were that they are more expensive and healthier. Choice of organic foods was related to the perceived consequences for human health and to environmentally friendly behaviour. Perceived positive health consequences appeared to be a stronger motive for purchasing organic foods than were environmental benefits.Attitudes towards genetic engineering (GE) appear to be dependent on the application area. Medical applications were generally more easily accepted than were food and agricultural applications. However, all medical applications were not equally accepted. Consumers had generally rather negative attitudes towards GM foods, which were perceived as not being healthy. GM of animals for food production was perceived more negative than GM of plants. Tangible benefits of GM foods, like being better for the environment or healthier, seemed to have a potential to increase willingness to buy.The results indicate that the attitudes to organic and GM foods differ: the attitude to organic foods is positive while the attitude to GM foods is more negative. Further, the perceptions of organic and GM foods are opposed in relation to health. The purchase of organic foods and the potential willingness to purchase GM foods appear to be related to positive consequences for health and the environment.
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