Acceptance of genetically modified food

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The factors responsible for the Indian consumer acceptance of GM foods


The objective of this paper is to examine the factors responsible for the Indian consumers' acceptance of genetically modified food. A binary probit model is employed for the analysis. The results indicates that: ........................................


In the last centuries the agriculture sector has undergone very significant developmental changes. The technology has played a role of a magician in agricultural development. Most of the inventions so far have been criticized at commercial utilization stage. The use of GM (genetic modification) technology in agriculture was flourished in last decade, which is facing vast critics. Both the supporters and opponents of use of GM technology in food production have presented potent arguments but the research indicates that consumers will be the ultimate judges of success of the upcoming new foods produced from agricultural biotechnology (Saba, et. al. 1998). Hence consumer acceptance is a critical factor for the success of application of GM technology in food sector. The current literature shows that consumer around the world have shown mixed reactions for the acceptance of GM technology in food production. Due to the high failure rate among new products, marketers are continuously seeking ways of better forecasting new product success (Urban an Hauser 1993). It implies the essence to study the factors which makes consumer to accept or reject the GM food product. There are plenty of studies available in developed world but the less described are the developing nations, hence the purpose of this study is to understand the factors responsible for the consumer acceptance of GM food in developing world: case of India.

The first commercially grown GM crop was a tomato in 1994 Brookes and Barfoot (2005), since the time the area under GM crops is increasing with a high pace, today global scenario of GM crops is 125 million hectare area from 25 countries (James, C, 2008). In India to date, Bt cotton is the only commercially grown GM crop, moreover, Brinjal, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Potato, Corn, Rice, Groundnut, Sorghum, Caster, Okra and Tomato are under a field trials for biosafety (IGMORIS, 2009), while the GeneticEngineeringApproval Committee(GEAC) recommended commercial cultivation of Bt Brinjal, this recommendation is facing strong agitation from farmers groups and NGOs (The Hindu, 2009). The overall picture shows that on one side government is kin towards GM crops and on other side this approval is facing very strong oppose from the some sections of society. It is clear that consumer will face GM crops as processed foods or food products containing GM ingredients in the market, in most of the cases they will be unaware about GM nature of the food which they are buying because of no labeling policy so far for GM foods in India. The important issue is whether consumer accept GM foods or not, and what are the factors which drives consumer decision about GM foods. There is a growing body of literature available on consumer acceptance. The global acceptance of GM food is very divergent. The acceptance of GM foods in US and Europe revolves around risks and benefits of biotechnology in the production of feed and foods (Isserman, 2001).

Past work

Loureiro and Bugbee (2005) found that US consumers are ready to pay premiums for genetic modifications which increase the flavor or enhance the nutritional value of tomato.

Traill et. al (2006) concludes that risk and benefit perceptions are negatively correlated, but not perfectly and, given and the benefits are more important than risks in determining willingness to consume and the measurement of risk and benefits suggested.

Onyango and Govindasamy (2004) found that despite generally US consumer views genetic modification negatively, the direct health, environmental and production related benefits have a positive effect on choice.

Lusk et. al. (2002) found that US consumers prefer non-GM products but GM products that exhibit clear-cut benefits are acceptable.

Savdori et. al (2004)  revealed that providing information about benefits could reduce risk perception of biotech application.

Frewer et al. (1998) argues that consumer perceptions of risk and benefit associated with particular products and applications will determine acceptance of GM

Trial et al. (2004) find that those consumers with a positive attitude to technology in general also have a positive attitude to GM technology. More Americans than Europeans fall into this category. Those who trust government and the food industry tend to think GM technology is less risky, whereas those who trust activists believe the opposite. Level of education is positively associated with benefit perceptions and negatively associated with moral concerns.

Baker and  Burnham (2001) find that  those consumers who were most risk averse, most likely to believe that GMOs improved the quality or safety of food, and most knowledgeable about biotechnology were the most likely to be accepting of GMO foods.

Hossain andOnyango(2004) suggests that consumers' economic and demographic variables are only weakly related to their acceptance of food biotechnology, However, public trust and confidence in various private and public institutions are significantly related to their acceptance of food biotechnology. Overall, consumer acceptance of bioengineered foods is driven primarily by public perceptions of risks, benefits and safety of these food products.

Hossain et al. (2003) suggests that consumer socioeconomic and demographic attributes are not related to there acceptance of GM foods when the use of biotechnology brings no additional benefits for the public

Chern et al. (2002) found significant difference in consumer willingness to pay premium for non-GM foods in Japan Norway Taiwan and USA.

Lusk et al.(2004) analyzed US, UK and French consumers' willingness to accept GM food, they found that French consumers were most averse to GM foods, difference between US and EU consumer behavior was due to the diverse in government trust and  media coverage and  Results indicate that information on environmental benefits, health benefits and benefits to the third world significantly decreased the amount of money consumers demanded to consume GM food; however, the effect of information varied by type of information and location. Consistent with prior research, it was found that initial attitudes toward biotechnology have a significant effect on how individuals responded to new information.

Angulo and Gil (2007) argue that consumers' knowledge on GM organisms is negatively related to positive attitudes towards GM food and consumers showing a higher frequency of buying fast food or ready-to-eat meals have more positive attitudes towards GM foods.

Vilella-Vila et al. (2005) argue that consumer decision making on new technologies is an information-dependent factor explaining consumer rejection to non-transparent introduction of GM food. Individuals feel ill-prepared to make decisions and rely on trusted information advisors such as consumer organizations.

Vilella-Vila et al. (2005) moral issues are not the determinant of the consumer acceptability of GM foods.


Krishna and Qaim (2008) have analyzed potential impact of Bt eggplant in India they showed that the aggregate economic surplus gains of Bt eggplant hybrids could be in a magnitude of Rs. 4.9 billion (US$108 million) per year and more than 50% of the overall gains will be captured by consumers, who will benefit from a technology-induced decrease in eggplant prices.

Krishna and Qaim (2008) Using contingentvaluation methodsand a sample of urban households, they found that almost 60% ofconsumers would purchase Bt vegetables at current conventionalvegetable prices, indicating a high acceptance level. The restwould purchase at a certain price discount and the required discount increases for people particularly concerned about pesticide residues, demonstrating that risk-averse consumers do not easily offset technology benefits against perceived risks.

Sadashivappa and Qaim (2009) find that on average, Bt-adopting farmers realize pesticide reductions of roughly 40%, and yield advantages of 30-40%. Profit gains are at a magnitude of US $60 per acre.