News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
Dear News Update Subscribers,
The December issues of both the "American Journal of Agricultural Economics" and the "Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics" report on a research study on genetically engineered foods done by Iowa State University.
The study involved 300 consumers and was designed to determine consumer acceptance of genetically engineered foods. It found that consumers wanted to pay on the average 14 percent less for genetically engineered foods.
This study provides evidence that there is little incentive for companies to voluntarily label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
We can also surmise that when mandatory labeling is eventually required, most companies will choose to use non-genetically engineered ingredients since consumers will most likely be reluctant to purchase them. This is not good news for the biotech industry.
The article below will provide further details on the study.
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
PO Box 55699
Seattle, WA 98155
Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org
Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United States."
Iowa State University researchers test consumer acceptance of GM food
December 26, 2003
By Susan Thompson
Iowa State University
How willing are consumers to buy genetically modified (GM) foods? What effect does labeling have on food purchases? Who do consumers trust to provide objective information on genetic modification? Those are three questions Iowa State University researchers sought to answer in a project involving 300 people.
Wallace Huffman, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and economics professor, led the research. Results are published in the December issues of both the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Workers in the ISU Statistics Laboratory recruited randomly chosen people, telling them they would be participating in research looking at consumer decisions on food and household products. They were invited to come to locations in Des Moines and St. Paul, Minnesota, in April and December of 2001.
Two types of food labels were used in the experiments. One label provided nothing more than the contents of the package and its weight. The other provided the same information, plus a statement that the product had been made using genetic modification.
Participants received different kinds of background information. Three statements on genetic modification were written that were typical of those made by environmental groups that oppose the practice, by industry groups that approve of the practice, and by an independent third party.
Participants were divided into small groups. Each group was presented with a different combination of background information and food labels. Each person was given $40 and asked to bid on three food items - vegetable oil, tortilla chips and russet potatoes.
"In general, when consumers saw the GM label, they bid less by an average of 14 percent," Huffman said. "This is an indication the industry won't voluntarily label GM foods of the type tested, because consumers would pay significantly less for them."
Huffman said the research also showed consumers are willing to pay the most for food items that might be genetically modified if they hear only the industry perspective, and the least if they hear only the environmental group perspective. "The independent, third-party perspective is a significant moderating force against the extremes of either of the other two perspectives," he said.
Participants were asked who they trust to provide information on genetic modification. The groups mentioned most often were universities, scientists or other third-party entities, followed by government. "We found information does affect the decisions consumers make about foods that might be genetically modified," Huffman said.
"The Nuffield report suggests that there is a moral imperative for investment into GM crop research in developing countries. But the moral imperative is in fact the opposite. The policy of drawing of funds away from low-cost sustainable agriculture research, towards hi-tech, exclusive, expensive and unsafe technology is itself ethically questionable. There is a strong moral argument that the funding of GM technology in agriculture is harming the long-term sustainability of agriculture in the developing world." - Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Environmental Protection Authority, Ethiopia