Genetically modified (GM) foods are an essential element in global food security, yet, despite the lack of scientific evidence that GM foods are less safe than traditional foods, their use remains a highly contentious issue. Preliminary research conducted by Dr. D. Zhang of the University of Saskatchewan suggests that part of the problem is that the agricultural biotechnology industry has focused too much on technology innovation, while overlooking the importance of understanding consumer needs. Second-generation GM crops, however, rather than focusing on benefits to the producer, such as increased yield or resistance to pests, are focusing on creating benefits to consumers, such as increased nutrition, better taste and environmental sustainability.
This study, a continuation of Dr. Zhang’s research, explores how Canadian consumers formulate their attitudes to GM food and how these might change with the presentation of consumer-focused improvement. The study will also examine consumers’ willingness to accept, and to pay a premium for, these second-generation GM foods. A demonstrated greater willingness to accept and pay for second-generation GM foods could encourage agricultural biotechnology companies to shift their focus from producers to consumers, with a positive impact on the industry, the larger agricultural industry and the public.
The study will shed light, not on consumer attitudes, which have been studied extensively, but on how these attitudes are formed and under what circumstances they may change. It will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to reveal what types of attributes consumers want and are willing to pay for, thus getting more value from the considerable public and private investment in new crops and products.