The Impact of Socio-Demographic Factors and Political Perceptions on Consumer Attitudes towards Genetically Modified Foods: An Econometric Investigation

By Antonopoulou, Lila; Papadas, Christos T. et al. | Agricultural Economics Review, July 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

The Impact of Socio-Demographic Factors and Political Perceptions on Consumer Attitudes towards Genetically Modified Foods: An Econometric Investigation


Antonopoulou, Lila, Papadas, Christos T., Targoutzidis, Antonis, Agricultural Economics Review


Abstract

This survey-based paper investigates the impact of socio-demographic factors, along with political perceptions, as expressed by attitudes towards globalization, on consumer attitudes towards GM foods, in Greece. Different aspects of consumer attitudes regarding GM foods are examined, such as general preference, banning, labeling, intention to purchase them at a sufficiently low price, the nutritional category of food product and the proximity of the genetic modification to the final product. Econometric analysis using Logit and Probit models was conducted. Estimates clearly show that in general, attitudes towards GM foods are not affected by socio-demographic characteristics. However, political perceptions are a significant influential factor.

Keywords: Globalization, political, genetically modified food, econometric

JEL Classification: D12, M31, R22

Introduction

After the 2004 settlement on the trade regulation of genetically modified (GM) food products in EU, the debate has largely turned to consumer behavior and attitudes towards these products, which is the topic of investigation in an expanding literature. Consumers do not accept a scientific development as necessarily beneficial to society (Bonny, 2003) and this belief may stem from different sources and backgrounds.

Subjective prior beliefs on attributes are held by consumers (Akerlof 1970, Stigler 1961, Molho 1997), and their opinions do not appear to be based on expert knowledge (Trewavas 1999, 2001). Alternative models have distinguished in the past between spontaneous and well thought out decisions of consumers (Fazio 1986, Triandis, 1980). In the case of GM products, the debate and the perception of risk or their rejection, do not appear to be based on scientific proof for risks particular to genetic modification (Conner and Jacobs, 1999). Even though consumers obtain new information to update prior beliefs on products (DeGroot 1970, Molho 1997, Tiróle 2003), there is evidence that for GM foods in particular, there is a refusal of consumers to adjust opinions on the basis of new evidence (Trewavas & Leaver 2001). This may be due to intuitive rather than rational thinking (Haidt 2001) especially when one considers the moral aspects of the debate as mentioned above (Magnusson and Koivisto Hursti 2002). Dual process theories recognize intuitive and rational thinking as the two orthogonal types of information processing (Epstein et al. 1996, Stanovich & West 2000, Loewenstein et al. 2001).

Despite the previous findings on the role and effectiveness of information on attitudes towards GM foods, more recent literature suggests that uninformed consumers are significantly more sensitive to new information from interested and third parties than consumers who had informed prior beliefs and seem largely unaffected (Huffman et al. 2004).

GM foods have been associated also with "magical thinking" which is the belief that "objectively unrelated objects and events can somehow affect one another solely because of their similarity or contiguity in time and space, in a manner not governed by any ordinary principle of transmission of energy or information" (Saher et al. 2006, Rozin & Nemeroff 1990, Vyse 1997).

Most studies investigating and dealing with explicit attitudes towards GM products are survey based on a questionnaire or interview format (Cook et al. 2002, etc). Despite the usefulness of knowledge and information on explicit attitudes, it has been found that implicit attitudes are very helpful in predicting consumer behavior (Fazio & Olson 2003a). Contrary to explicit attitudes which are derived and measured from responses consciously controlled, implicit attitudes are more spontaneous and automatic.

A literature review on implicit attitude measurements is found in Spence (2005). They are based on non verbal behavior, specially designed physiological examination, reaction time tests, etc.

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