Skip to main content
Log in

The Biotechnology Communication Paradox: Experimental Evidence and the Need for a New Strategy

  • Published:
Journal of Consumer Policy Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

In the past, communication strategies aimed at facilitating consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods have focused on technology-driven, top-down practices. The utility of these practices in influencing the extent to which consumers accept specific GM foods was tested in attitude change experiments involving 1655 consumers from Denmark, Germany, Italy, and the UK. Different information strategies were tested against a control group for their ability to change consumer attitudes. No attitude change occurred. Rather, results indicate that all strategies had a uniform attitude activation effect that significantly decreased consumers' preferences for GM foods as compared to the control group. The discussion focuses on why technology-driven information strategies have failed to convince consumers of the merits of GM foods, and relates these results to recent changes in consumer policy that are aimed at engaging consumers in the debate about innovation processes rather than attempting to align their views with those held by expert communities.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

REFERENCES

  • Bozdogan, H. (1987). Model selection and Akaike's information criterion (AIC): The general theory and its analytical extensions. Psychometrika, 52, 345–370.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bredahl, L. (2001). Determinants of consumer attitudes and purchase intentions with regard to genetically modified foods: Results of a cross-national survey. Journal of Consumer Policy, 24, 23–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bredahl, L., Grunert, K. G., & Frewer, L. J. (1998). Consumer attitudes and decisionmaking with regard to genetically engineered food products. A review of the literature and a presentation of models for future research. Journal of Consumer Policy, 21, 251–277.

    Google Scholar 

  • Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In: K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models, pp. 136–162. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Caswell, J., & Mojduska, M. (1996). Using informational labeling to influence the market for quality in food products. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 78, 1248–1253.

    Google Scholar 

  • Commission of the European Communities (2001). Towards a strategic vision of life sciences and biotechnology: Consultation document. Brussels: CEC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Darley, W. K., & Smith, R. E. (1993). Advertising claim objectivity: Antecedents and effects. Journal of Marketing, 57(4), 100–113.

    Google Scholar 

  • Doubleday, R. (2001). Knowledge and the governance of biotechnology. Politeia, 17(62), 22–33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1993). The psychology of attitudes. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A. H., & Chaiken, S. (1995). Attitude strength, attitude structure, and resistance to change. In: R. E. Petty & J. A. Krosnick (Eds.), Attitude strength: Antecedents and consequences, pp. 413–432. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • European Federation of Biotechnology (1998). How can biotechnology benefit the environment? The Hague: EFB.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fazio, R. H. (1986). How do attitudes guide behavior? In: R. M. Sorrentino & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), The handbook of motivation and cognition. Foundations of social behavior, pp. 204–243. New York: Guildford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fazio, R. H. (1989). On the power and functionality of attitudes: The role of attitude accessibility. In: A. R. Pratkanis, S. J. Breckler, & A. G. Greenwald (Eds.), Attitude structure and function, pp. 153–181. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fazio, R. H., Powell, M. C., & Williams, C. J. (1989). The role of attitude accessibility in the attitude to behavior process. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 280–288.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fazio, R. H., & Zanna, M. P. (1981). Direct experience and attitude-behavior consistency. In: L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 14, pp. 161–120. New York: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fishbein, M. (1963). An investigation of the relationship between beliefs about an object and the attitude toward that object. Human Relations, 16, 233–239.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J. (2001). Environmental risk, public trust and perceived exclusion from risk management. Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, 9, 221–248.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Howard, C., Hedderley, D., & Shepherd, R. (1996). What determines trust in information about food-related risks? Underlying psychological constructs. Risk Analysis, 16, 473–486.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Howard, C., Hedderley, D., & Shepherd, R. (1999). Reactions to information about genetic engineering: Impact of source characteristics, perceived personal relevance and persuasiveness. Public Understanding of Science, 8, 35–50.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Howard, C., & Shepherd, R. (1997). Public concerns about general and specific applications of genetic engineering: Risk, benefit and ethics. Science, Technology and Human Values, 22, 98–124.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Howard, C., & Shepherd, R. (1998). The importance of initial attitudes on responses to communication about genetic engineering in food production. Agriculture and Human Values, 15, 15–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Hunt, S., Kuznesof, S., Brennon, M., Ness, M., & Ritson, R. (forthcoming). The views of scientific experts on how the public conceptualise uncertainty. Journal of Risk Research.

  • Frewer, L. J., Miles. S., & Marsh, R. (2002). The GM foods controversy. A test of the social amplification of risk model. Risk Analysis, 22, 701–711.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., & Salter, B. (2002). Public attitudes, scientific advice and the politics of regulatory policy: the case of BSE. Science and Public Policy, 29, 137–145.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frewer, L. J., Scholderer, J., & Bredahl, L. (forthcoming). Communicating about the risks and benefits of genetically modified foods: The mediating role of trust. Risk Analysis.

  • Frewer, L. J., Scholderer, J., & Lambert, N. (forthcoming). Consumer acceptance of functional foods: Issues for the future. British Food Journal.

  • Frewer, L. J., Shepherd, R., & Sparks, P. (1994). Biotechnology and food production: Knowledge and perceived risk. British Food Journal, 96, 26–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grunert, K. G., Baadsgaard, A., Larsen, H. H., & Madsen, T. K. (1996). Market orientation in food and agriculture. Boston: Kluwer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hadfield, G. K., & Thomson, D. (1998). An information-based approach to labeling biotechnology consumer products. Journal of Consumer Policy, 21, 551–578.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamstra, A. M. (1991). Biotechnology in foodstuffs: Towards a model of consumer acceptance. The Hague: The SWOKA Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamstra, A. M. (1995). Consumer acceptance model for food biotechnology: Final report. The Hague: The SWOKA Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamstra, A. M. (1998). Public opinion about biotechnology. A survey of surveys. The Hague: European Federation of Biotechnology.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hilgartner, S. (1990). The dominant view of popularisation: Conceptual problems, political uses. Social Studies of Science, 20, 519–539.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hill and Knowlton International Belgium (2000). Study on nutritional, health and environmental claims in the European Union (for the European Commission, DG Health and Consumer Protection). Brussels: CEC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoban, T., Woodrum, E., & Czaja, R. (1992). Public opposition to genetic engineering. Rural Sociology, 57, 476–493.

    Google Scholar 

  • INRA Europe/Ecosa (2000). The Europeans and biotechnology. Brussels: CEC. Eurobarometer 52.1.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, B. T., & Eagly, A. H. (1989). The effects of involvement on persuasion: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 290–314.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jongebreur, A. A. (2000). Strategic themes in agricultural and bioresource engineering in the 21st century. Journal of Agricultural Engineering Research, 76, 227–236.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1996). LISREL 8: User's reference guide. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kano, Y. (2000). Structural equation modeling for experimental data. In: R. Cudeck, S. du Toit, & D. Sörbom (Eds.), Structural equation modeling: Present and future, pp. 381–402. Chicago, IL: Scientific Software International.

    Google Scholar 

  • Katz, D. (1960). The functional approach to the study of attitudes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 24, 163–204.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maio, G. R., & Olson, J. M. (2000). Why we evaluate: Functions of attitudes. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marchant, R. (2001). From the test tube to the table: Public perception of GM crops and how to overcome the public mistrust of biotechnology in food production. EMBO Reports, 2, 354–357.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marris, C. (2001). Public views on GMOs: Deconstructing the myths. EMBO Reports, 2, 545–548.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miles, S., & Frewer, L. J. (2001). Investigating specific concerns about different food hazards-higher and lower order attributes. Food Quality and Preference, 12, 47–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, P. (1970). Information and consumer behavior. Journal of Political Economy, 78, 311–329.

    Google Scholar 

  • OECD (1998). Biotechnology for clean industrial products and processes: Towards industrial sustainability. Paris: Organisation for Economic and Cultural Development.

    Google Scholar 

  • Office of Science and Technology (forthcoming). The debate on the use of technology in the foodchain. London: The Stationary Office.

  • Peters, H. P. (1998). Is the negative more relevant than the positive? Cognitive responses to TV programs and newspaper articles on genetic engineering. Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on Public Communication of Science & Technology (PCST), Berlin, September 17–19.

  • Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pliner, P., & Hobden, K. (1992). Development of a scale to measure the trait of food neophobia in humans. Appetite, 19, 105–120.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prislin, R., Wood, W., & Pool, G. J. (1998). Structural consistency and the deduction of novel from existing attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 34, 66–89.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sadler, M. (1998). Labelling genetically modified soya and maize in the EU. Nutrition & Food Science, 6, 306–309.

    Google Scholar 

  • Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. (1988). Scaling corrections for chi-square statistics in covariance structure analysis. In: American Statistical Association (Ed.), Proceedings of the Business and Economic Statistics Section, pp. 308–313. Alexandria, VA: American Statistical Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. (1999). A scaled difference chi-square statistic for moment structure analysis. Los Angeles: University of California. UCLA Statistics Series No. 260.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scholderer, J., & Balderjahn, I. (1999). Consumer information strategies for genetically modified food products. In: L. Hildebrandt, D. Annacker, & D. Klapper (Eds.), Marketing and competition in the information age [CD-ROM]. Brussels: European Marketing Academy.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scholderer, J., Balderjahn, I., Bredahl, L,. & Grunert, K. G. (1999). The perceived risks and benefits of genetically modified food products: Experts versus consumers. European Advances in Consumer Research, 4, 123–129.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scholderer, J., Balderjahn, I., & Will, S. (1998). Communicating the risks and benefits of genetically engineered food products to the public: The view of experts from four European countries. Aarhus: The Aarhus School of Business. MAPP Working Paper No. 57.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scholderer, J., Balderjahn, I., & Will, S. (1999). Communicating the GM story. The World of Ingredients, July/August, 60–61.

  • Scholderer, J., Bech-Larsen, T., & Grunert, K. G. (2001). Changing public perceptions of genetically modified foods: Effects of consumer information and direct product experience. Appetite, 37, 162.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scholderer, J., BrunsØ, K., Grunert, K. G., Poulsen. C. S., & ThØgersen, J. (2001). The changing importance of quality aspects in food consumption. European Advances in Consumer Research, 5, 5–10.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegrist, M. (1998). Belief in gene technology: The influence of environmental attitudes and gender. Personality and Individual Differences, 24, 861–866.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegrist, M. (1999). A causal model explaining the perception and acceptance of genetic engineering. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 2093–2106.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegrist, M. (2000). The influence of trust and perceptions of risks and benefits on the acceptance of gene technology. Risk Analysis, 20, 195–204.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegrist, M., & Cvetkovich, G. (2000). Perception of hazards: The role of social trust and knowledge. Risk Analysis, 20, 713–720.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sörbom, D. (1974). A general method for studying differences in factor means and factor structures between groups. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 27, 229–239.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sparks, P., Shepherd, R., & Frewer, L. J. (1995). Assessing and structuring attitudes towards the use of gene technology in food production: The role of perceived ethical obligation. Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 16, 267–285.

    Google Scholar 

  • Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M. (1990). Conceptual model of the quality perception process. Journal of Business Research, 21, 309–333.

    Google Scholar 

  • Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M., & Baumgartner, H. (1998). Assessing measurement invariance in cross-national consumer research. Journal of Consumer Research, 25, 78–90.

    Google Scholar 

  • Steiger, J. H. (1998). A note on multiple sample extensions of the RMSEA fit index. Structural Equation Modeling, 5, 411–419.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tengerdy, R. P., & Szakacs, G. (1998). Perspectives in agrobiotechnology. Journal of Biotechnology, 66, 91–99.

    Google Scholar 

  • Uzogara, S. G. (2000). The impact of genetic modification of human foods in the 21st century: A review. Biotechnology Advances, 18, 179–206.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wynne, B. (2001). Expert discourses of risk and ethics on genetically modified organisms: The weaving of public alienation. Politeia, 17(62), 51–76.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zechendorf, B. (1994). What the public think about biotechnology. Bio/Technology, 12, 870–875.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Scholderer, J., Frewer, L.J. The Biotechnology Communication Paradox: Experimental Evidence and the Need for a New Strategy. Journal of Consumer Policy 26, 125–157 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023695519981

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1023695519981

Keywords

Navigation