Public perceptions of agrifood applications of Genetic modification – A systematic review: Deliverable of EU 7th framework funded research project PEGASUS Public Perception of Genetically Modified Animals – Science, Utility, and Society

L.J. Frewer, I.A. van der Lans, A.R.H. Fischer, M.J. Reinders, D. Menozzi, X.Y. Zhang, I. van den Berg, K.L. Zimmermann

Research output: Book/ReportReportAcademic


An extensive literature relating to public perceptions of genetically modified foods applied to agri-food production has been identified through the process of systematic review. Application of systematic review criteria indicated that 335 papers were of appropriate quality or relevance to be considered in the systematic review. Of these, 70 contained data (or data which could be accessed by contacting the authors) which were amenable to formal meant-analysis. The analysis excluded research which utilised willingness-to-pay as the dependent variable as these had been the subject of a relatively recent meta-analysis. Insufficient qualitative research was identified to include these papers in an additional the formal systematic analysis. The results indicate that most data had been collected in Europe, North America, and, to a lesser extent, Australia and new Zealand, and Asia. It is therefore not possible to make conclusions about some major EU trading partners (in particular the BRIC countries and some other Latin American countries) and development and capacity building partners (for example, Sub-Saharan African countries). Some significant differences in consumer perceptions were observed between those regions where data were available, as well as according to whether the focus of the genetic medication was targeted at animals , plants, or genetic modification applied to agri-food production in general. Overall, the results indicate that consumers intention to use the products of GM animals were lower than for GM plants or for GM applications in general, independent of region. Intentions to purchase the products GM organisms of Europeans were more negative than those observed in SE Asia and North America. No differences were observed with time in any region. Similar results were observed for overall attitude. North Americans perceived more benefits associated with GM overall when compared to Europeans and Asians. However, benefit perception increased with time in all of the regions for which analysis was possible. This effect occurred independent of whether the target of the application was focused on GM animals, plants or generic applications. North American, South American and Asian participants perceived fewer risks than Europeans. Risk perception increased with time independent of region, independent of target organism. In contrast, ethical and moral concerns were greater in North America and Asia compared to those within Europe. Consumer acceptance of products will depend on which factor (or combination of factors) predicts consumer behaviour. The importance of different factors as a determinant of consumer behaviour may also vary between different regions, and according to different socio-cultural and historic contexts. For European consumers, negative attitudes (including risk perceptions and purchase intentions) and benefit perceptions have increased with time. It is not clear, particularly at a time when applications of GM animals are not available commercially, which “type” of attitude, perception or belief will be most influential in terms of consumer acceptance of GM and its applications in the agri-food sector, or indeed whether this will vary between consumers. The development of an effective communication strategy associated with GM animals must, in any case, take account of both risks and benefits of GM animals linked to technical issues and economic impacts, as well as risk perceptions. When communicating about GM and its applications, and developing public engagement strategies to facilitate public involvement in the technology trajectory, moral and ethical concerns are also important, but may be a greater priority for consumers in countries which are important European trading partners than for consumers and citizens within Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNewcastle, UK
PublisherNewcastle University
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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