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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2019

Dissuasive effect, information provision, and consumer reactions to the term 'Biotechnology': The case of reproductive interventions in farmed fish

Kulesz, Micaela M.; Lundh, Torbjorn; De Koning, Dirk-Jan; Lagerkvist, Carl-Johan

Abstract

Biotechnology can provide innovative and efficient tools to support sustainable development of aquaculture. It is generally accepted that use of the term 'genetically modified' causes controversy and conflict among consumers, but little is known about how using the term 'biotechnology' as a salient feature on product packaging affects consumer preferences. In an online discrete choice experiment consisting of two treatments, a set of 1005 randomly chosen Swedish consumers were surveyed about use of hormone and triploidization sterilization techniques for salmonids. The information given to the treatment group included an additional sentence stating that the triploidization technique is an application of biotechnology, while the control group received the same text but without reference to biotechnology. Analysis using a hierarchical Bayes approach revealed significant consumer reactions to the term biotechnology. When the term was included in information, variation in consumer willingness-to-pay (WTP) estimates increased significantly. Moreover, some participants were dissuaded towards an option guaranteeing no biotechnological intervention in production of fish. These results have multiple implications for research and for the food industry. For research, they indicate the importance of examining the distribution of variation in WTP estimates for more complete characterization of the effects of information on consumer behavior. For the food industry, they show that associating food with biotechnology creates more variability in demand. Initiatives should be introduced to reduce the confusion associated with the term biotechnology among consumers.

Published in

PLoS ONE
2019, Volume: 14, number: 9, article number: e0222494
Publisher: PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE