Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 1201–1227 | Cite as

Knowledge, Attitudes and Behavioral Intentions of Agricultural Professionals Toward Genetically Modified (GM) Foods: A Case Study in Southwest Iran

  • Sedigheh Ghasemi
  • Ezatollah Karami
  • Hossein Azadi
Original Paper


While there has been a number of consumers’ studies looking at factors that influence individuals’ attitudes and behavior toward GM foods, few studies have considered agricultural professionals’ intentions in this regard. This study illuminates agricultural professionals’ insights toward GM foods in Southwest Iran. A random sample of 262 respondents was studied. The results indicated that the majority of the respondents had little knowledge about GM foods. They perceived few benefits or risks of GM foods. Their perceived benefits and trust in individuals and institutions had positive impacts on the behavioral intentions of the agricultural professionals. The results also revealed that the low knowledge level of the respondents had a negative impact on the behavioral intentions toward GM foods. This state of affairs is problematic, either GM foods have serious problems or the knowledge conveyed to the Iranian agricultural experts is inappropriate. We recommend a well defined communication strategy to provide information in such a way that allows individuals to feel adequately informed about GM foods. Furthermore, the development of trust and knowledge regarding GM foods can be greater when risk analysis frameworks are transparent, risk assessment methodologies are objective, all stakeholders are engaged in the risk management process, and risk communication focuses on consumers.


GM foods Knowledge Attitude Agricultural professionals Gatekeepers 


  1. Aerni, P. (2001). Assessing stakeholder attitudes to agricultural biotechnology in developing countries. Biotechnology and Development Monitor, 47, 2–7.Google Scholar
  2. Aerni, P. (2005). Stakeholder attitudes towards the risks and benefits of genetically modified crops in South Africa. Environmental Science & Policy, 8(5), 464–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Azadi, H., & Ho, P. (2010). Genetically modified and organic crops: A review of options for food security. Biotechnology Advances, 28(1), 160–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azadi, H., Schoonbeek, S., Mahmoudi, H., Derudder, B., De Maeyer, P., & Witlox, F. (2011a). Organic agriculture and sustainable food production system: Main potentials. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 144, 92–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Azadi, H., Talsma, N., Ho, P., & Zarafshani, K. (2011b). GM crops in Ethiopia: A realistic way to increase agricultural performance? Trends in Biotechnology, 29(1), 6–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baker, G. A., & Burnham, T. A. (2001). Consumer response to genetically modified foods: Market segment analysis and implications for producers and policy makers. Agricultural and Resource Economics, 26(2), 387–403.Google Scholar
  7. Baruch, Y., & Holtom, B. (2008). Survey response rate levels and trends in organizational research. Human Relations, 61(8), 1139–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bazuin, S., Azadi, H., & Witlox, F. (2011). Application of GM crops in Sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons learned from Green Revolution. Biotechnology Advances, 29, 908–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boccaletti, S., & Moro, D. (2000). Consumer willingness-to-pay for GM food products in Italy. AgBioForum, 3(4), 259–267.Google Scholar
  10. Bredahl, L. (2001). Determinants of consumer attitudes and purchase intentions with regard to genetically modified foods—Results of a cross-national survey. Consumer Policy, 24(1), 23–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bredahl, L., Grunert, G., & Frewer, L. J. (1998). Consumer attitudes and decision making with regard to genetically engineered food products. A review of literature and a presentation of models for future research. Consumer Policy, 21(3), 251–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cardello, A. V., Schutz, H. G., & Lesher, L. L. (2007). Consumer perception of foods processed by innovative and emerging technologies: A conjoint study. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 8, 73–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chen, M. F., & Li, H. L. (2007). The consumers’ attitude toward genetically modified food in Taiwan. Food Quality and Preference, 18(4), 662–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chern, W. S., Rickertsen, K., Tsuboi, N., & Fu, T. (2002). Consumer acceptance and willingness to pay for genetically modified vegetable oil and salmon: A multiple-country assessment. AgBioForum, 5(3), 105–112.Google Scholar
  15. Cohen, J. I., & Paarlberg, R. (2004). Unlocking crop biotechnology in developing countries—A report from the field. World Development, 32(9), 1563–1577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Connor, M., & Siegrist, M. (2010). Factors influencing people’s acceptance of gene technology: The role of knowledge, health expectations, naturalness and social trust. Science Communication, 32(4), 514–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Cook, A. J., & Fairweather, J. R. (2003). New Zealand farmer and grower intentions to use gene technology: Results from a survey. AgBioForum, 6(3), 120–127.Google Scholar
  18. Cook, A. J., Kerr, G. N., & Moore, K. (2002). Attitudes and intentions towards purchasing GM food. Economic Psychology, 23(5), 557–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Costa-Font, M., Gil, J. M., & Traill, W. B. (2008). Consumer acceptance, valuation of and attitudes towards genetically modified food: Review and implications for food policy. Food Policy, 33, 99–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Deodhar, S. Y., Ganesh, S., & Chern, W. S. (2008). Emerging markets for GM foods: A study of consumer’s willingness to pay in India. Selected paper prepared for presentation at the American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, Orlando, Florida, July 27–29.Google Scholar
  21. Eurobarometer. (2001). Europeans, science and technology in 2001. Fieldwork, 2001.Google Scholar
  22. Eurobarometer. (2002). Europeans, science and technology in 2002. Fieldwork, 2002.Google Scholar
  23. Eurobarometer. (2004). Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment. Fieldwork, 2004.Google Scholar
  24. Eurobarometer. (2005). Europeans, science and technology in 2005. Fieldwork, 2005.Google Scholar
  25. Frewer, L., Howard, C., & Aaron, J. (1998). Consumer acceptance of transgenic crops. Pesticide Science, 52(4), 388–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Frewer, L., Lassen, J., Kettlitz, B., Scholderer, J., Beekman, V., & Berdal, K. G. (2004). Societal aspects of genetically modified foods. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 42(1), 1181–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frewer, L., Scholderer, J., Downs, C., & Bredahl, L. (2000). Communicating about the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods: Effects of different information strategies, Working Paper. MAPP, Aarhu, 71.Google Scholar
  28. Frewer, L. J., & Shepherd, R. (1995). Ethical concerns and risk perceptions associated with different applications of genetic engineering: Interrelationships with the perceived need for regulation of the technology. Agriculture and Human Values, 12(1), 48–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fritz, S., Husmann, D., Wingenbach, G., Rutherford, T., Egger, V., & Wadhwa, P. (2003). Awareness and acceptance of biotechnology issues among youth, undergraduates, and adults. AgBioForum, 6(4), 178–184.Google Scholar
  30. Grunert, K. G., Bredahl, L., & Scholder, J. (2003). Four questions on European consumers’ attitudes toward the use of genetic modification in food production. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, 4(4), 435–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grunert, K., Lahteenmaki, L., Nielsen, N., Poulsen, J., Ueland, O., & Astrom, A. (2000). Consumer perception of food products involving genetic modification: Results from a qualitative study in four nordic countries (Work. Rep. No. 72). MAPP, Aarhus.Google Scholar
  32. Han, J. H., & Harrison, R. W. (2004). A multinomial logic model of consumer perceptions for biotech food labeling. Selected Paper prepared for presentation at the American Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado, August 1–4, 2004:
  33. Hansen, J., Holm, L., Frewer, L., Robinson, P., & Sandøe, P. (2003). Beyond the knowledge deficit: Recent research into lay and expert attitudes to food risks. Appetite, 41, 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hoban, T. (1998). Trends in consumer attitudes about agricultural biotechnology. AgBioForum, 1(1), 3–7.Google Scholar
  35. Hoban, T. (2001). Food industry leaders’ perceptions of biotechnology. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University.Google Scholar
  36. Hossain, F., Onyango, B., Adelaja, A., Schilling, B., & Hallman, W. (2002). Public perceptions of biotechnology and acceptance of genetically modified food. New Brunswick: Food Policy Institute WP.Google Scholar
  37. Hossain, F., Onyango, B., Schilling, B., Hallman, W., & Adelaja, A. (2003). Product attributes, consumer benefits and public approval of genetically modified foods. Consumer Studies, 27(5), 353–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hu, W., & Chen, K. (2004). Can Chinese consumers be persuaded? The case of genetically modified vegetable oil. AgBioForum, 7(3), 124–132.Google Scholar
  39. Huang, J., Bai, J., Pray, C., & Tuan, F. (2004). Public awareness, acceptance of and willingness to buy genetically modified foods in China. Rutgers University.Google Scholar
  40. Huang, J., Qiu, H., Bai, J., & Pray, C. (2006). Awareness, acceptance of and willingness to buy genetically modified foods. Appetite, 46(2), 144–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. (2009). Global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops.
  42. James, J. (2004). Consumer knowledge and acceptance of agricultural biotechnology vary. California Agriculture, 58(2), 99–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Karami, E. (2001). Extension, poverty and sustainability: Myths and realities. 15th European Seminar on Extension and Education (pp. 59–61). The Netherlands: Wageningen. Google Scholar
  44. Karami, E., & Keshavarz, M. (2009). Sociology of sustainable agriculture: A review. In E. Lichtfouse (Ed.), Sustainable agriculture reviews (Vol. 3, pp. 19–40). Springer. Google Scholar
  45. King, D. (2007). GM food safer than normal food, government adviser says. The Guardian, Tuesday 27 November 2007.
  46. Knight, A. J. (2009). Perceptions, knowledge and ethical concerns with GM foods and the GM process. Public Understanding of Science, 18(2), 177–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Leonard-Barton, D. (1985). Experts as negative opinion leaders in the diffusion of a technological innovation. Consumer Research, 11, 914–926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lobb, A. E., Mazzocchi, M., & Trail, W. B. (2007). Modeling risk perception and trust in food safety information within the theory of planned behavior. Food Quality and Preference, 18(2), 384–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Martinez-Poveda, A., Molla-Bauza, M. B., Campo Gomis, F. J. D., & Martinez-Carrasco, M. L. (2009). Consumer-perceived risk model for the introduction of genetically modified food in Spain. Food Policy, 34(6), 519–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Mathison, S. (2001). Ethical analysis of genetically modified crops issue: Introduction, summary.
  51. Metoyer-Duran, C. (1993). Information gatekeepers. In M. Williams (Ed.). Annual review of information science & technology. Medford, NJ: Learned Information, Vol. 28, pp. 111–150.Google Scholar
  52. Moon, W., & Balasubramanian, S. K. (2001). Public perceptions and willingness-to-pay a premium for non-GM Foods in the US and UK. AgBioForum, 4(3–4), 221–231.Google Scholar
  53. Moseley, B. E. B. (1999). The safety and social acceptance of novel foods. Food Microbiology, 50(1–2), 25–31.Google Scholar
  54. Nap, J.-P., Metz, P. L. J., Escaler, M., & Conner, J. (2003). The release of genetically modified crops into the environment. The Plant Journal, 33, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Onyango, B., Govindasamy, R., Hallman, W., Schilling, B., & Adelajan, A. (2003). Public perceptions of food biotechnology: Uncovering factors driving consumer acceptance of genetically modified food. Food Distribution Research, 34(1), 37–42.Google Scholar
  56. Papastefanou, G., Springer, A., Tsioumanis, S., & Mattas, K. (2003). Cultural context and attitudes towards genetically modified food in Greece and West Germany.
  57. Patton, M. L. (2002). Proposing empirical research. A guide to the fundamentals (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Pyrczak Inc.Google Scholar
  58. Peters, L. D. (2003). Sustainable farming needs bioengineering.
  59. Pindstrup-Andersen, P., & Schibler, E. (2001). Seeds of contention: World hunger and the global controversy over GM crops. Baltimore, ML: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Pretty, J. N. (1995). Regenerating agriculture: Policies and practice for sustainability and self reliance. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  61. Qaim, M., Zilberman, D. (2003). Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing countries. Science, 299(5608), 900–902. Google Scholar
  62. Rasul, G., & Thapa, G. B. (2003). Sustainability of ecological and conventional agricultural systems in Bangladesh: An assessment based on environmental, economic and social perspectives. Agricultural Systems, 79(3), 327–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Retherford, R. D., & Choe, M. K. (1993). Statistical models for causal analysis. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rigby, D. D. (2001). Caceres, organic farming and the sustainability of agricultural systems. Agricultural Systems, 68, 21–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  66. Rogers, E. M., & Agarwala, R. (1976). Communication in organizations. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  67. Rogers, E. M., & Kincaid, D. L. (1981). Communication networks: Toward a new paradigm for research. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  68. Sandoe, P. (2001). What is the lesson to be learnt from the controversy about gene technology, Report of the first integrated discussion platform. In Meeting of the thematic network Entrance Food, Ispra.Google Scholar
  69. Savadori, L., Savio, S., Nicotra, E., & Rumiati, R. (2004). Expert and public perception of risk from biotechnology. Risk Analysis, 24(5), 1289–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Shehata, S., & Cox, L. J. (2007). Attitudes of Hawaii consumers toward genetically modified fruits.
  71. Sheikhha, M. H., Kalantar, S. M., Vahidi, A. R., & Faghihi, M. (2006). Public knowledge and perceptions of biotechnology and genetically modified organisms in Iran. Biotechnology, 4(2), 130–136.Google Scholar
  72. Siegrist, M. (2000). The influence of trust and perceptions of risks and benefits on the acceptance of gene technology. Risk Analysis, 20(2), 195–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Siegrist, M., Cousin, M. E., Kastenholz, H., & Wiek, A. (2007). Public acceptance of nanotechnology foods and food packaging: The influence of affect and trust. Appetite, 49, 459–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Sjöberg, L. (2008). Genetically modified food in the eyes of the public and experts. Risk Management, 10, 168–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Soregaroli, C., Boccaletti, S., & Moro, D. (2003). Consumer’s attitude towards labeled and unlabeled GM food products in Italy. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 6(2), 111–127.Google Scholar
  76. Teisl, M. F., Fein, S. B., & Levy, A. S. (2009). Information effects on consumer attitudes toward three food technologies: Organic production, biotechnology, and irradiation. Food Quality and Preference, 20(8), 586–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Thompson, P. (1999). The ethics of truth-telling and the problem of risk. Science and Engineering Ethics, 5(4), 489–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tornatzky, L. B., & Fleisher, M. (1990). The processes of technological innovation. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company.Google Scholar
  79. Trail, W. B., Jaeger, S. R., Yee, W. M. S., Valli, C., House, L. O., Lusk, J. L., Moor, M., & Morrow., J. L. (2004). Categories of GM risk benefit perceptions and their antecedents. AgBioForum, 7(4), 176–186.Google Scholar
  80. Uzogara, S. G. (2000). The impact of genetic modification of human foods in the 21st century: A review. Biotechnology Advances, 18(3), 179–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Verdurme, A., & Viaene, F. (2003). Consumer attitudes towards genetically modified food. Qualitative Market Research, 6(2), 95-11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wheeler, S. (2005). Factors influencing agricultural professionals’ attitudes towards organic agriculture and biotechnology. Australia: University of South Australia.
  83. Wheeler, S. (2008). What influences agricultural professionals’ views towards organic agriculture? Ecological Economics, 65(1), 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Wheeler, S. (2009). Exploring the influences on Australian agricultural professionals’ genetic engineering beliefs: An empirical analysis. Technology Transfer, 34(4), 422–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wingenbach, G. J., Rutherford, T. A., & Dunsford, D. W. (2003). Agricultural communications students’ awareness and perceptions of biotechnology issues. Agricultural Education, 44(4), 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Xi, C., & Harris, R. (2006). Consumer attitudes toward genetically modified foods: A U.S-China risk-benefit perception comparison.
  87. Zhong, F., Marchant, M. A., Ding, Y., & Lu, K. (2002). GM foods: A Nanjing case study of Chinese consumers’ awareness and potential attitudes. AgBioForum, 5(4), 136–144.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sedigheh Ghasemi
    • 1
  • Ezatollah Karami
    • 1
  • Hossein Azadi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Extension and Education, College of AgricultureShiraz UniversityShirazIran
  2. 2.Department of GeographyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations