Consumer attitudes toward biotechnology: Lessons for animal-related applications
C. M. Bruhn 1
Center for Consumer Research, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
Newer techniques of biotechnology, such as recombinant DNA, offer scientists a range of tools to enhance the quality and environmental sensitivity of agricultural production. This article briefly summarizes consumer attitudes toward biotechnology in the United States and Europe. Few U.S. consumers have read or heard a lot about biotechnology, and concern about biotechnology was low on the list of concerns of consumers in the United States. When asked to volunteer food-related concerns, only 2% expressed concerns about the safety of foods modified by biotechnology. People supported applications that benefit the environment, with modifications that provided direct consumer benefits, such as increased nutritional value or better taste, endorsed by slightly fewer people. Most consumer research has focused on plant applications of biotechnology; modification of animals is likely to be more emotionally charged because the majority of U.S. consumers believe that animals have rights that people should not violate. Few European consumers considered themselves knowledgeable about biotechnology. Knowledge of basic biology seemed to be lacking, putting people at risk for misinformation. Fifty-eight percent or more of Europeans believed that genetically modified plants were fundamentally different from traditional plants and believed their own genetic material would change if they consumed genetically modified food. Communication programs in Europe are challenging because government and industry sources were trusted by few consumers. Experience in the United States indicates that communication can change attitudes. Frequent and effective communication that highlights potential benefits and addresses public concerns is a prerequisite for increasing public acceptance.
J. Anim. Sci. 2003. 81:E196-E200. © 2003 American Society of Animal Science.
Key Words: Biotechnology • Consumer Attitudes • Genetic Engineering