Given that genetic engineering is a possible solution to citrus greening, understanding public perceptions of genetic technologies is important.
Lisa House, director of the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center and a professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida, made an online presentation during the recent Agricultural and Applied Economics Association annual meeting. She discussed how consumers perceive genetic technology in terms of orange juice (OJ) and how much they’re willing to pay for that technology.
House has been involved in five different genetic technology surveys. The first survey, in 2001, collected data on consumer knowledge and willingness to accept genetic technology in Florida citrus production. Each survey had a unique focus to evaluate different factors and reasons for accepting the technology.
The most recent survey, in 2019, focused on the method of communicating information. Consumers were asked to picture their favorite brand and type of OJ and answer questions based on that product. The survey questions included what the consumer expected to pay for the product they were thinking of and how that price would differ if it were labeled as genetically modified, non-genetically modified or produced with gene editing.
Based on the survey findings, consumers were willing to pay about $1 more for a carton of OJ that was unlabeled or non-genetically modified, without any explanation of why genetic technology was being used.
However, after being shown images and videos on genetic technology, consumer willingness to pay for OJ that contains gene-edited citrus was significantly higher than citrus that had been genetically modified.
One of the most important takeaways from this research is the importance of consumer education.
After being given a specific situation about citrus greening and an explanation of its impact on the industry, respondents showed more acceptance toward gene editing and genetic modification.
“Understanding the reason for the technology, and not just technology, influences willingness to pay,” House says.
Highlighting facts and adding personal relevance about a specific situation can lead to greater public acceptance.
Ashley Robinson, AgNet Media communications intern, wrote this article.
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