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Research article2020Peer reviewed

Examining the social acceptance of genetically modified bioenergy in Germany: Labels, information valence, corporate actors, and consumer decisions

Butkowski, Olivier K.; Baum, Chad M.; Pakseresht, Ashkan; Broering, Stefanie; Lagerkvist, Carl Johan


Social acceptance of innovative technologies is a key element of an effective transition towards more sustainable energy economies. However, innovative technologies like genetic modification also tend to spark controversy and backlash. So far, efforts to inform the public about any risks and benefits of novel technologies not only have struggled to foster acceptance but also neglect the interdependent foundations of consumer decision-making. Through a controlled experiment with German consumers (N = 322), we examine whether consumer support and rejection of genetic modification in bioenergy crops is influenced by the statements and actions of actors throughout the supply chain. In specific, we show that the decision of energy companies to sell and support GM bioenergy positively impacts consumer decisions to support. To ensure that decision outcomes were specifically impacted by the expressions of corporate actors, we controlled for the content and valence of information by random assignment to one of three treatments in which participants received positive, negative, or balanced (risks and benefits) information. We find that negative messaging diminished support and increased rejection relative to the other treatments. Lastly, the statements and actions of corporate actors also exerted an indirect influence on consumer decisions through their interactions with social trust and labels, e.g. greater support by farmers had a positive influence only for those who are more generally trustworthy. Given these results, we anticipate more attention to the importance of actors such as farmers and energy companies for the social acceptance of novel technologies in the energy sphere.


Consumer decision-making; Social acceptance; Information provision; Bioenergy; Genetic modification

Published in

Energy Research and Social Science
2020, Volume: 60, article number: 101308
Publisher: ELSEVIER

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    • Sustainable Development Goals

      Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

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