What do we know about international public and consumer responses to future food technologies?Lynn J. Frewer, Nidhi Gupta and Arnout Fischer
Key issues • Increasingly impact assessment associated with food technology is focusing on both risks and benefits • Consumer decision-making involves a trade-off between perceived risk and benefit • New governance models are beginning to • Incorporate integrated risk-benefit metrics at the assessment stage • Consider health, environment, socio-economic and ethical impact as assessment metrics
Consumer health Affluent countries face a pandemic of obesity • Healthy foods • Optimal taste • Functional foods and ingredients • Lifestyle-related illnesses increasing in emerging economies Food shortages in many parts of the world, despite the “green revolution”.
Sustainability • More efficient production • Reduced consumer wastage • Environmental protection The “biofuels” crisis • Implications for food availability
Misalignment between expert and citizen perspectives regarding food risk management? Results from Denmark, Germany, Greece, Slovenia and the UK.
Consumers & Experts: A Perceptual Divide Consumers Experts Consumer Awareness Consumers not willing to seek information Poor quality of information Adequate Risk management and happy consumers Risk management efforts Continuing problems Risk management priorities More acceptance of economic interests Less acceptance of economic interests Emphasise consumer protection Emphasise state and industry Responsibility Negative view - create public anxiety Positive view Media Not acknowledged by all institutions Inherent in science Uncertainty Krystallis et al, 2007, Health, Risk & Society
The case of genetically modified foods (1) • Consumer valuessuch as concern about the integrity of nature,and trust in the regulatory system were an important part of societal and consumer acceptance • Developing communication about substantial equivalence did not address consumer concerns • Control over consumption of GM foods was important to European consumers,necessitating the labelling of GM foods and implementation of effective traceability systems
The case of genetically modified foods (2) • The negative public reaction to GM foods was less to do with risk, and more to do with consumer choice and provision of relevant information • Marketing issue, not an ideologicalissue (“who wants what products and why?”) • Opaque risk analysis systems and decision-making practices were not helpful in reassuring the public • The absence of 1st generation products with tangible and desirable consumer benefits
From risk to risk-benefit……. • Considerable (and increasing) research activity directed towards perception of, and communication about, emerging technologies • Most research has focused on risk communication? • What impact does benefit communication have on attitudes? • Transparent technology governance • Effective citizen participation • Informed consumer choice
Psychological determinants of public reactions to food technologies Most research has focused on perceived risk, trust and culpability, and, more latterly, perceived benefit,
An example of developing predictive models of technology acceptance The case of GM trees
GM Hypoallergenic apple * Female=0, Male=1 ** Non-patient=0, Patient=1 Gender* -0.13 Rejection Factors 0.23 -0.34 Environ- mental concerns R2 = 0.08 Acceptance implementation Genetic Modification r= - 0.60 Health concerns Benefits 0.50 R2 = 0.57 Allergic patient** (Schenk et al, 2008)
GM hypoallergenic Birch tree * Female=0, Male=1 ** Non-patient=0, Patient=1 Gender* -0.16 Rejection Factors Environ- mental concerns 0.17 -0.28 R2 = 0.06 Acceptance implementation Genetic Modification r= - 0.57 Health concerns Benefits 0.11 0.54 R2 = 0.58 Allergic patient** 0.18 R2 = 0.05 0.11 (Schenk et al, 2008)
2 1.5 1 0.5 Prior Attitude (centred 95% ci) 0 -0.5 -1 -1.5 -2 GM Organic Nanotech Conventional Citizen attitudes to different agri production technologies Positive, strong (established) attitudes Positive Negative, strong (established) attitude Negative
What impact does risk and benefit information have on established attitudes?
Impact of risk-benefit information on established attitudes • Negative attitudes become slightly less negative • Positive attitudes become slightly less positive
2 1.5 1 0.5 Prior Attitude (centred 95% ci) 0 -0.5 -1 -1.5 -2 GM Organic Nanotech Conventional Citizen attitudes to different agri production technologies Positive Moderately negative, ambivalent attitude Negative Van Dijk et al, submitted
Inverse U-shape relation between attitude and attitudinal ambivalence post balanced information provision
Individual differences in attitude Three “segments” of consumers • Group 1 (42%) became more negative • Less / average education • Group 2 (46 %) didn’t change • Less / average education • Group 3 (12%) became more positive • Younger or older • Male • Highly educated
Potential marketing segments • GROUP 1 – • ”Food technology rejectors” • Group 2 • “ambivalent” • Group 3 • “Battlestar Galactica fanclub”
Who will set the agenda for public debate… • Who will set the agenda for public debate… • ….those people and societal groups who are either extremely positive or negative towards the food technology … • Industry must provide “honest” risk-benefit communication if consumer trust is to be maintained • Undecided individuals will absorb the attitudes of those with whom they perceive to share values • Future food technology is dependent on developing products which people want and need • Consumer choice is essential
Conclusions • Need to collect data a the same time in different geographical regions • Increasingly sophisticated psychological modelling (e.g. risk/benefit perceptions) of attitudes • Test link between attitudes and behaviour • Consumers are not homogenous – individual differences important • Once established, attitudes difficult to change
Thank you! Any questions?