Communication design

Last changed: 06 July 2017

How do consumers make their choices in the grocery store? And what influence does the fact that gene technology has been used in the manufacture of these products have on their choices? Through using potatoes and field cress as examples, we study if the acceptance of gene technology is affected by information about the various techniques used in plant breeding.

Previous research has shown that consumers can be divided into three groups, depending on their attitudes to genetically modified (GM) food: 1. opponents/pessimists, 2. risk-tolerant or information seekers, and 3. those who accept GMO/optimists.

All in all, the size of each group creates a balance within society for or against the use of GM technology. Our research provides a theoretical basis for how different factors affect the acceptance of new foodstuffs produced using biotechnology.

We use three sub-studies in which we develop and test different messages adapted to specific consumer groups. The first step is to identify the driving forces and conceptions that lie behind the various groups’ attitude to GM food. The persons in the test are given questions about health and environmental aspects of field cress and potatoes (cultivated by Mistra Biotech). In this process we also invite representatives from the food industry and supermarkets to find out their answers to the same questions.

The most prominent conceptions are transformed into questions which form part of deeper investigations involving many more test persons. We use both questionnaires and experiments in which we test how the information content and format affect the participants’ actions. Based on the divisions into the three aforementioned groups, we study how the degree of acceptance depends on the understanding and knowledge that the consumers can gain through finding out about the GM techniques that the plant breeders use.

We also study how social influence can change the level of acceptance. We examine if the level of acceptance is permanent or can be influenced and, if that is the case, which processes lie behind a change in balance within the societal collective.

Contact: Carl-Johan Lagerkvist

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