Swiss consumers & choice…study with organic, conventional, GMO food

November 15, 2011

Here is a peer reviewed journal article in Food Policy (August 2011) outlining the results of a study exploring consumer choice about productsproduced through different ag production methods.

 How would Swiss consumers decide if they had freedom of choice? Evidence from a field study with organic, conventional and GM corn bread

Authors: Philipp Aerni, Joachim Scholderer, David Ermen

EXCERPT: “The results of the discrete choice analysis revealed that customers are price sensitive, but not to the extent expected. 20.1% of the customers bought a GM corn bread even if it was as expensive as its organic alternative. The analysis of the questionnaire results confirmed that ‘curiosity’ rather than the price was the primary reason for buying a GM corn bread. Another reason may also be related to lifestyle conflicts in front of the market stand. On the one hand, people express a clear preference for organic and are willing to pay a premium for it, on the other hand they welcome personal initiative by local people to sell something new at open market stands – even if this new thing is a GM corn bread.”

ABSTRACT: In 2005, the Swiss expressed their negative attitude towards genetic engineering in agriculture by voting in favor of a ban to use genetically modified (GM) crops in domestic agriculture. At the same time, certain GM food products remain approved but are not on offer since retailers assume that consumers would shun labeled GM food. In our study we tested this claim by conducting a large-scale field study with Swiss consumers. In our experimental design, three clearly labeled types of corn bread were offered at five different market stands across the French and German-speaking part of Switzerland: one made with organic, one made with conventional, and one made with genetically modified (GM) corn. In addition, we tested the consistency between purchasing decision at the market stand and the previous voting decision on GMOs in 2005 by means of an ex-post questionnaire. The results of our discrete choice analysis show that Swiss consumers treat GM foods just like any other type of novel food. We conclude from our findings that consumers tend to appreciate transparency and freedom of choice even if one of the offered product types is labeled as containing a genetically modified ingredient. Retailers should allow consumers to make their own choice and accept the fact that not all people appear to be afraid of GM food.

 

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