If it benefits us, we’ll accept GM item

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Consumers may be willing to pay a premium for certain genetically modified foods if they are told of potential health benefits.

Jayson Lusk, Purdue University agricultural economist, assessed how much consumers are willing to pay for a genetically modified, or GM, food called golden rice.

Lusk found that consumers may be willing to pay more for the genetically modified golden rice versus a nongenetically modified white rice, if they perceive a direct personal benefit from the genetically modified product.

Perceived value. “This study is one of the first to show that people are willing to pay a premium for a food that’s been improved using biotechnology,” Lusk said.

“People value this product such that they are willing to pay more for it.”

Golden rice, which is not yet commercially available, contains a daffodil gene that produces a compound the human body converts to vitamin A.

Lusk provided background information about golden rice to all survey participants.

Not what others found. Lusk said consumers in previous studies indicated they would pay a premium for foods that had not been genetically modified – the exact opposite of what he found in this study.

He attributes that difference to this study’s emphasis on the potential benefits of golden rice from a consumer’s, rather than a producer’s, point of view.

The first generation of genetically modified products came from technologies that tended to benefit farmers, like Roundup Ready crops and Bt corn, Lusk said.

“Consumers don’t see a lot of benefit from those products except for perhaps a very small decrease in price,” Lusk said.

“Other than that, consumers have been asked to take a risk without any benefit to them at all.”

Second generation. Lusk said the next generation of genetically modified foods will be those like golden rice that provide direct benefits, such as improved nutritional quality or enhanced shelf life, to the consumer.

As the biotechnology industry shifts more of its promotion effort to these second generation crops, he said producers will need to know if consumers will be more accepting of genetically modified foods that offer benefits to them.

“While consumers might perceive somewhat of a risk with genetically modified foods, they may also see a benefit,” Lusk said.

In his study, at least, it appears that the nutritional benefits of a genetically modified food outweigh consumers’ perception of risk.

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