Academic journal article IUP Journal of Applied Economics

Japanese Consumers' Valuation of Genetically Modified Functional Foods

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Applied Economics

Japanese Consumers' Valuation of Genetically Modified Functional Foods

Article excerpt

Recent food safety scares have increased Japanese consumers' concerns for food safety and Genetically Modified (GM) foods as they perceive the uncertainty associated with GM foods as potential risk. However, this risk perception can be considerably reduced as the consumers observe or experience the benefits of GM foods directly. Technical advancement in GM food development and manufacturing has led to the emergence of GM functional foods that provide physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, above and beyond their basic nutritional functions. This paper examines Japanese consumers' preference for the functional benefits of the new generation GM food products. The relative price premium associated with each functional benefit of GM foods indicates that the respondents place the highest importance on the health-related benefits such as the nutritional, medical and dietary benefits, while placing less importance on convenience and the producer benefit (i.e., lower pesticide usage). These findings have important policy and marketing implications as they help the stakeholders such as GM food researchers, marketers and policymakers in deciding which attributes and functional benefits are required to develop and enhance in their new products during the research and development phase as well as in the regulatory policy making process.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

Ever since Genetically Modified (GM) food entered the global food system in the early 1990s, there has been considerable interest in the nature of consumer concerns about the safety and the long-term effects of GM food. GM food is an innovative product which has untested opportunities and new potential risks. Most individuals do not posses 'sufficient knowledge' on the risks and benefits of new and unfamiliar technologies such as GM food (Gaskell et al ., 2004; and Costa-Font and Mossialos, 2005). This nature of GM food has resulted in some consumers having varying degrees of fear, uncertainty, and doubt regarding the safety of GM food. While new GM foods are being continuously developed, many of them remain uncommercialized due to uncertainties and lack of consumer acceptance. However, technology for the new generation GM foods is in the process of advancement and is expected to provide additional functional benefits such as longer shelf stability, enhanced sensory appeal, reduced allergenicity, health and nutrition benefits. Consumers' attitude toward these 'second generation' GM foods may be different as these foods provide health, nutritional and economic benefits directly to the consumers.

The new generation GM foods with their functional attributes can be categorized as 'novel foods' that are produced by the processes that have not been previously applied, or that cause a major change in the food (Veeman, 2002). The new generation GM foods can be also termed as 'functional foods' that provide physiological benefits or reduce the risk of chronic diseases, above and beyond their basic nutritional functions. Functional foods are becoming increasingly popular at retail stores. For example, pork with genetically enhanced Omega-3 fatty acids is a functional food product that is commercially available in the retail sector (Atkinson, 2007). Functional foods can be further narrowed down to a 'nutraceutical' that is in the form of a pill or capsule with substances extracted from a functional food, providing pharmaceutical functions. The functional foods can provide economic benefits to the society through improved health and well-being of the population and reduced health care costs.

Consumer acceptance has become a key for success in marketing GM food in the global agricultural market (Chern et al., 2002). Consumer will be the ultimate judge of success of the upcoming new foods produced from biotechnology (Saba and Vassallo, 2002). Some have speculated that new generation of GM foods with enhanced quality attributes or nutritional benefits will see much greater public acceptance (Riley and Hoffman, 1999; Feldman et al. …

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