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Factors Influencing Consumer Awareness Of Genetically Modified Foods Marketing Essay

3558 words (14 pages) Essay in Marketing

5/12/16 Marketing Reference this

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This study provides insights on the factors that affect Malaysian Consumers awareness of Genetically Modified foods, and identifying the major factors influencing these attitudes. A total of 200 respondents in the area of Klang Valley were interviewed using a close ended questionnaire between March and April of 2012. Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was conducted in order to identify influential factors that affect consumer awareness toward GMF. Descriptive analysis is also used to summarize the socio-demographic data into simpler summary to facilitate better understanding and measure. Results of the survey indicate that the majority of the respondents are aware of the Genetically Modified foods in Klang Valley.

Key Words: Descriptive Analysis, Factor Analysis, GM foods, Awareness, Malaysia.


Gene technology in Agriculture is rapidly increasing in the world, through which the latest modern biotechnology and best techniques is used to exclusively change the genes of one organisms to another one, resulting to benefit the world’s fastest growing population by ensuring

sustainable food production. Genetically modified foods consist of food producing plants and animals which has experienced gene manipulation. The overall concept behind genetic modified food is changing of the traits of genes in animals and plants in a way that results more production.

According to International service for the acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) report 2011, the planting of GM crops in the world is increasing over the years as a consequence of its importance in responding food scarcity in different areas of the world. Globally, the total area planted in genetically modified crops has continually increased over the past decades. It is estimated that approximately 134 million hectares were planted with GM crops in 2009, and 46 % of total land was cultivated in the developing countries (James, 2009). Countries like Argentine, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa contribute approximately 40 % of total global GM cultivated, or 46 million hectares (James, 2008).

Considering this world GM development in terms of production, some expert’s estimate that by 2050 GM crops will be less expensive than other crops, be ready available, and have the potential to increase yields and yield stability of staple food crops (FAO, 2009).Despite of the GM crops potential in increasing the developing nation’s food production, their interest in adapting this technology is still influenced by negative public opinion, including anti-Gm lobby groups (Qaim, 2009).

The issue of Genetic modified organisms is relatively new development to the Malaysian consumers (Daud, 2002). The biotechnology sector in Malaysia is regarded to be as one of the key drivers of the nation’s economic growth in fulfilling the country’s target 2020. However, for the time being Malaysia is not facing at the required level to meet the country’s food demand. Al though there have been previous studies on public awareness towards GMF in developed countries identifying majority of the factors influencing consumer acceptance on modern biotechnology, there is a need to conduct a more comprehensive study to assess all the relevant factors that influence the consumer awareness on GMF in Malaysia.


Although GM crops are consumed in many developed countries, the overall public have not yet well received in Europe and Japan. Farmers in the United States (USA) have embraced GM crops to use, but they are confused with the uncertainties of marketing GM products (Chem et al., 2002).

The suspicions about consumer acceptance of GMF have increased around the globe, as a matter of differing attitudes among consumers.

For the last decade, Consumer organizations, environmentalists and some non-governmental organizations have raised their worries regarding food safety, ethical, religious and environmental aspects, as well as lack of consumer choice due to inadequate labelling. Previous studies conducted have shown that many consumers in the European Union have experienced difficulties in consuming GM products.

As Verdurme and Viaene (2002) discovered that the consumers, especially those in the European Union and Japan disagree the use of the GM technology in food production. Though consumers in the USA , however, are accepting the use of GM technology, and are willing to consume GM foods if acceptable price discounts are made on them ( Kaneko and Chern, 2003 ).

With respect to developing countries, studies have showed that consumer think positively on GM technology and the consumption of the sectors product.

Li et al. (2002) discovered that Chinese consumers have little or no knowledge on biotechnology, though their attitudes towards GM foods were generally positive, indicating their willingness to purchase for GM rice and soybean, and acceptance of GM foods. According to Curtis et al. (2004) indicated that consumers in the developing countries like China and Columbia have more positive perceptions towards GM foods, Majority of these understanding comes as a result of food needs, high positive Media impact, together with consumer high trust in government and as a result of high awareness on science development. The other essential major factors behind these developments that effect consumer acceptance of GM foods are awareness and information. It is understood that consumers that are well informed about GMOs, and they are more likely to perceive the risks of genetic modification, but more likely to consider the benefits (Loader and Henson, 1998).

The development and overall success of any biotechnology programs will definitely depend on whether consumers understand the benefits and finally accept its products.

Springer et al. (2002) discovered that it is the consumers that would be finally judging the success of developing technologies in agricultural production. In Africa, where per capita food production is experiencing short pace to cope with the fast population growth and serious food shortages in some parts of the continent, may not have the option of refusing foods with GM content (De Groote et al., 2004). Understanding the consumer’s awareness towards GM foods is important not only to the decision makers, it is also considered it will benefit the biotechnology industry, food manufactures, and food retailers. Studies have discovered that the consumer resistance to GM foods has changed the food industry behaviour and resulted substantial costs in order to differentiate GM foods from non-GM foods (Baker & Bumham, 2001; Lin, Somwaru, Tuan, Huang & Bai, 2004; Qaim. Krattiger & Braun, 2000). As a result, some of these costs from the GM technology will be passed to the consumers regardless of whether they reject or accept GM foods (Lin & Johnson, 2004).

Materials and Methods

Behavioural Perspective model ( BPM ) is utilized as a basis of the conceptual framework for the study to provide better understanding on the consumers behaviour which will influence the external and internal environment ((Foxall, 1992).The model consider the consumer attitude towards GM Foods is affected by their learning situation and the current behaviour setting (Fagerstrom, 2004). It enables an environmental perspective for the consumer’s behaviour, on which as a result includes the consumer’s situational influences into the analysis of purchase and consumption of GM foods.

The consumer’s behaviour is affected by the consumer’s behaviour setting and their learning history. Consumer behaviour setting of GM consumers is related on the consumer’s awareness, perception and their attitudes about the confidence of the food safety. Also, the consumer learning history refers to the consumer’s related experiences i.e (if they have purchased GM products before or knowledge about GM foods they had behaviour which will influence their current behaviour.

The consumers learning history will affect the consumers’ behaviour setting and directly and indirectly influence the consumers’ current behaviour. The model also proposed the consumer behaviour will produce utilitarian, aversive and informational reinforcement. Utilitarian reinforcement is the benefit which the consumers gain from purchasing and consuming GM foods. For example, the utilitarian reinforcement in this study may be the consumption of GM foods for the consumers will provide more nutritious, healthy and concern about the food safety.

Informational reinforcement of consumers comes as a consequence of the consumer behaviour which involves their lifestyle where the consumer is reinforced by the social attention or appreciation. Informational reinforcement in this study is benefit of the consumers can gain from the food biotechnology resonate with the public and the differentiation of GM foods from others food products. Also, aversive consequences of buying GM foods is the consumers need to pay more than the conventional foods and the side effect of consuming GM foods is still unknown.

This study used data collected from a survey which was carried out in March- May 2012 in Klang Valley. A stratified random sampling method was used and the survey was carried out in supermarkets such as Jusco, Tesco, Carrefour and Cold storage as a matter of Consumers of every level usually come to supermarkets. A total of 200 respondents were interviewed using a well-structured questionnaire. A likert scale of 1 to 7 ( 1 represent strongly disagree and 7 represent strongly agree) was employed to measure the consumers awareness on 94 statements formulated in relation to GM foods consumption, on which consumers socio-demographic backgrounds were collected.

The data collected for the study were analysed by using SPSS version 20.0. Descriptive statistics, factor analysis were used to analyse the information gathered from the questionnaire. Descriptive analysis was used to determine the socio-demographic data into an easy and simpler to comprehend and figure out the factors that might influence the consumer’s perception towards GM foods consumption.

Explanatory Factor analyses were also conducted, on which the reliability of the result factors is to be tested using the Cranach’s alpha to measure the internal reliability consistency. The factors were extracted by using varimax method for which the criteria for the number of factors to be extracted was the KMO and is supposed to be more than 0.50 and eigenvalue of each factors had to be more than one.

Results and Discussion

The Cronbach’s alpha value for “consumer learning history”, “consumer behaviour setting”, whether the resulting behaviour is either resulting positive, negative or information to GM consumers as a whole was discovered were 0.876. This showed that there is consistency among the model and it is suitable for the study.

Sample Characteristics

From a total of 200 respondents, the socio-demographic profile of the respondents is analysed as shown in (Table 2). The result showed that most of the respondents were female 105 (52.5 percent), and the rest were male. The ethnic ratio of the respondents was Malay 64 %, followed by Chinese 48 % and Indians 24 %. In terms of percentage of respondents from urban and suburb was 74 % and 26% respectively. Majority of the respondents were unmarried 54.5%, and 45.5 % were married with majority of age between 18-30 (48.5 %).

In education background, 38.5 % of the respondents have master’s degree, Bachelor degree 76 %, followed by PhD degree of 30 %, and small portion of the respondents had secondary school and diploma 10 % and 7 % respectively. About 51.5 % of the respondents have an income between RM1001-2500 per month, and 20 % have an income between RM 2501-4000 per month, 14 % have income between RM 4001-5500 per month, while small percentage of the respondents have 10% of income (RM 5501-7000 ) , and 4.5 % have income between RM 7001-8500.

Majority of the respondents have household size between 4 to 6 people (57 %), where 31 % have household size between 1-3 people, and 12 % of household size between 7-9 people.

Consumer Awareness and knowledge on existence of Genetically Modified foods

Consumer awareness on the existence of genetically modified foods or the use of genetic engineering techniques for the production of foods were also measured by asking 12 statements ( Table 3 ).

As the result indicates that 62% of the respondents are aware of the existence of GM foods in Malaysia, and only 38 % are not aware of GM food existence (Table 2). Also, 72.5 % of the respondents have concern about how the food they purchase is processed.

As the analyses discussed indicate, consumers in the study area are aware with the existence of the genetically modified foods, this comes as a result of recent intensive attention and heavy funding of the government on the biotechnology sector. As the country’s biotechnology industry is expected to be the new techno-economic paradigm of the 21st century. The biotechnology sector in Malaysia is at the infant stage, but unfortunately the concept behind still needs to work harder to boost the nation’s economy.

Table 1: Socio-demographic profile of the respondents (n=200)

Variable Percentage Variable Percentage

Gender Income

Male 47.5 1001-2500 51.5

Female 52.5 2501-4000 20

Race 4001-5500 14

Malay 64 5501-7000 10

Chinese 24 7001-8500 4.5

Indian 12 Education Level

Area Secondary 5

Urban 74 Diploma 3.5

Suburb 26 Bachelor 38

Marital Status Master 38.5

Single 54.5 PhD 15

Married 45.5 Age

Household Size 18-30 48.5

1-3 31 31-40 38.5

4-6 57 41-50 10

7-9 12 >60 3

Table 2: Consumers awareness towards GM foods

Statement Frequency (%)

Yes No Yes No

Are you aware of GM food in Malaysia? 124 76 62 38

Table 3: Consumers knowledge on existence on GM foods

Statement Percentage

Are you aware of existence of GM food?

Yes 62

No 38

Are GMO food is in the introductory stage?

Yes 75

No 25

Are you very concern about how the food you purchase has been processed?

Yes 72

No 27

Are you very concern about the chemical and additives in food products?

Yes 76.5

No 23.5

Do you read the ingredients list before you buy a specific food product?

Yes 78.5

No 21.5

Do you read the label to find whether a product contains GM-ingredients?

Yes 55

No 45

Would you buy food which contains GM ingredients?

Yes 45

No 55

Are GMOs dangerous for your health?

Yes 43

No 54

Are GMOs safe for the environment?

Yes 36

No 61

Would the use of GMOs improve the agriculture sectors?

Yes 55

No 42

Is there enough information available about GM food in Malaysia?

Yes 43.5

No 53.5

Factor Analysis

As discussed previous, the study also conducts factor analysis for the purpose of discovering the latent factors expressing the consumer’s awareness towards GM foods. Respondents in the study area were able to answer 51 statements which were all seven point Likert scale about their awareness, attitude and intention towards the genetically modified foods in Malaysia.

The result from the factor analysis shows 51 statements that relate to consumers behaviour towards the consumption of GM foods that will affect the consumers awareness.

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) test of sampling adequacy and Bartlett’s test of

Sphericity was employed on all the statements to give emphasis and confirm the suitability of conducting factor analysis (Tabachnick, B. & Fidell, L. 2001). The results from the factor analysis indicate that the KMO test has reached at 0.737 (Table 4) which indicates that the sampling adequacy and factor analysis can be carried out. The factor loadings from the principal component factor analysis were obtained, after the varimax rotation of the consumer’s responses to 51 statements was carried out. The items that have a factor loading of at least 0.5 and above are regarded as a significance items. The factor loading resulted from 0.531 to 0. 675 (Table 5), hence, the factors are named based on the sub-variables which fall within each factors.

Table 4: Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) and Bartlett’s test of Sphericity

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy 0.737

Barlett’s Test of Sphericity Approx. Chi-Square 1592.386

d.f 253

Significance 0.000

As the result in Table 4 shows, Bartlett’s test for Sphericity indicates that the correlation matrix was at an appropriate level to perform factor analysis on the data. Required values for KMO test to be considered satisfactory are those more than 0.5.

Purchasing Incentives

This factor consists of five sub-variables and has a total variance of 0.737 percent; If GMF becomes available in the market, I will purchase (0 .776), I will choose to consume GMF, because to me it is healthier (0.760), I have strong intention to purchase GMF (0 .714), I intend to purchase food produced using genetic engineering (0.698), I am willing to accept GMF, if they taste better (0 .653). Followed by I would be willing to buy foods if contained a small amount of GMF (0 .652), I would be willing to purchase GMF, if it is labelled in detail (0.643) and I would buy GM fruits, if they taste better (0.638). The results show that consumers are willing to purchase GM foods.

Perceived risks

In respect to consumer perceived risks, the total variance of 0.737 percent, and contain five sub-variables including; I often believe on statements about benefits/risks (0.749), and Choice of my food based on chemicals used (0.733). I often talk on food safety and health issues with family/friend (0.663), I have concern about ecological disturbance from GMF (0.641), and Choice of my food based on additives contained (0.605). The result shows that consumers are concerned by the relative risk that can result from using GMF.

Ethical concern and beliefs

This factor has a total variance of 0.765 percent and consist of four sub-variable: Using GMF products will increase the risks to public health (0 .863), difficult to trust purity of GMF products, even if they are labelled (0.734), GMF diet would be harmful to one’s health ( 0.669), and GMF can have adverse on the future generations ( 0.603) . The result shows that the consumer’s ethical concern and beliefs can affect consumer towards GMF.

Consumer risk concern

This factor also has a total variance of 0.611 percent and comprise of three sub-variables: I think of myself as health conscious person (0.737), I am sort of person concerned about long term effects of food (0.664), and I am not certain about companies that popularize GMF (0.625). The result shows that consumers are hugely concerned about the risk that using GMF can result to and environment as well.

Importance of GM foods

According to importance of GM foods, the total variance of all sub-variables is 0.576 percent, and has three sub-variables; GMF production will help reduce use of harmful chemicals (0.671), by importing GMF products to world, profits will be increased (0.635), and GMF products have better quality (0.596). The result shows that consumers understand the importance and the existance of GMF.

Table 5: The result of Reliability Test

Cronbach’s Alpha Score Number of Items

Purchasing Incentives 0.854 8

Perceived risks 0.737 5

Ethical concern and beliefs 0.765 4

Consumer risk concern 0.611 3

Importance of GM food 0.576 3

Table 6: Factor loading results

Items Factor Loading

F1 F2 F3 F4 F5

Purchasing Incentives

If GMF becomes available in the market, I will purchase .776

I will choose to consume GMF, because to me it is healthier .760

I have strong intention to purchase GMF .714

I intend to purchase food produced using genetic engineering .698

I am willing to accept GMF, if they taste better .653

I would be willing to buy foods if contained a small amount of GMF .652

I would be willing to purchase GMF, if it is labelled in detail .643

I would buy GM fruits, if they taste better .638

Perceived risks

I often believe on statements about benefits/risks .749

Choice of my food based on chemicals used .733

I often talk on food safety and health issues with family/friends .663

I have concern about ecological disturbance from GMF .641

Choice of my food based on additives contained .605

Ethical concern and beliefs

Using GMF products will increase the risks to public health .863

Difficult to trust purity of GMF products, even if they are labelled .734

GMF diet would be harmful to one’s health .669

GMF can have adverse on the future generations .603

Consumer risk concern

I think of myself as health conscious person .737

I am sort of person concerned about long term effects of food .664

I am not certain about companies that popularize GMF .625

Importance of GM foods

GMF production will help reduce use of harmful chemicals .671

By importing GMF products to world, profits will be increased .635

GMF products have better quality .596


Understanding consumer awareness and understanding of the biotechnology foods or foods produced using biotech techniques is very vital to the food industry or food marketers. Consumers are concerned about the food products from the biotech industry, and how they give importance on the side effects they cause.

It is important also to the biotech industry as there is a growing concern among consumers which sheds the light on the importance of food safety, environmentally friendly products and health food products from the biotech industry. Since the market for green foods is still a new concept to Malaysians, more effort should be carried out to disseminate the green concept and the consumption of biotech food to Malaysians in general. Therefore, food producers or marketers need to understand consumers behaviour and how Malaysian consumers. Purchasing behaviour is affected by their socio-demographic characteristics.

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