Consumers differ in their desires on issue of labeling of genetically modified foods. Those having less defined views are of the perception that labeling should be mandatory while those with stronger viewpoints see labeling as nonessential.
A clear understanding of the genetically modified foods in terms of their risks and benefits could help determine the preferences of consumers for genetically modified foods and GM labeling policy.
Radas, Teisl and Roe (336) try to justify the varying viewpoints as regards genetically modified foods and their labeling. Hypotheses have just been made without any validity being tested.
The authors say that industrial leaders are for the idea that consumers accept genetically modified food because the public depict a tendency of consuming them while academic records indicate that human beings are more concerned with the GM technology, have not decided about GM foods and desire to have GM food labeled. The authors are compelled to conduct this study on GM foods so as to establish if human beings see labeling as something important as regards genetically modified foods.
Also, there are varying theories on GM foods making it complicated to interpret reported attitude levels even though consumers would have otherwise made clear distinctions. An example is that early studies indicated lowered prices as the greatest benefit of GM foods. Recent studies have explored scenarios where individuals derive non-price benefits from GM foods which may include derivation of higher nutritional value.
Recent studies have proposed that since consumers use the risk to benefit ratio when considering GM foods, consumers should be segmented according to their evaluation of GM foods because of their heterogeneous nature. The objective of this article is to establish if consumers vary in risk/benefit evaluation as regards GM foods and how these variants in evaluation relate with desires for GM labeling policy.
Consumer judgment on GM foods is based on limited information, thus it is biased as it does not factor all the risks and benefits of GM foods. This article points out that from the results of the study, there are three different kinds of consumers; the “risk avoiders”, “the risk dismissers”, and the “balanced and interested” group which was the largest segment and had no strong commitment to risk taking or risk dismissal.
This segment was found to contain the least educated individuals and had less income. The study also indicated that this group was stricter as regards to GM labeling and demanded a lot of information which is important to them as they are still undecided on GM foods. Thus with presentation of the right information they can make an informed decision on whether GM food is good for them.
The “balanced and the interested” group also had strong feelings regarding risks though they also found benefits of GM foods quite important. With the balanced and interested being the largest group, providing the right information can help distinguish their preferences as far as GM food is concerned.
It can be deduced from the above facts that human beings lack a clear understanding of GM foods as regards risk and benefits and they needed more information to make informed decisions on the same.
Gaining a comprehensive understanding of genetically modified foods as far as potential harms are concerned as well as envisaged benefits can go a long way in empowering consumers’ decision-making as far as labeling of GM foods is concerned.
To be precise, it would be easier to advocate for or against GM labeling since the arguments would be based on facts rather than sentiments (Barnard 26). The views regarding GM foods should only be based on tests that have been proved valid; otherwise it will be a grave mistake for all players to engage in this matter without clearly validated views.
Both industrial players as well as the scientists involved in this field should corroborate their efforts and findings to provide clear guidelines regarding labeling of GM foods (Environmental Nutrition 3). In the end, the consumer will be empowered to make better and more informed decisions. Consumers will also be able to choose whether they would like to accommodate the possible risks in GM food adoption while reaping the proved benefits (Kondro 1046).
With more and valid facts on GM foods, consumers are not tied to evaluating GM foods based on one aspect only, e.g. price benefit. Instead, they also have the option of evaluating GM foods based on other important facts such as availability of extra nutritional value in GM foods among others. Again, such a wide view of GM foods enhances decision-making as far as labeling of GM foods is concerned.
The authors have ably identified three key players in the GM labeling debate. These include consumers, industries, scientists as well as political players. Despite having elaborated on the first two players, the authors have not put a lot of emphasis on political influence in this debate.
It is unfortunate since political will has been found to be central in designing of various policies (Laux, Mosher and Freeman 4), with the issue of GM labeling not exempted. It is therefore advisable that even as the views of consumers are sought and their knowledge on benefits and risks of GM foods is improved, the political players should also be enlightened on the same.
Barnard, Neal D. “Weird science: Should you say no to GM foods?” Vegetarian Times Issue 384; (Apr/May2011): 26-27. Print.
Environmental Nutrition. “EN urges labeling of genetically modified food.” Environmental Nutrition 23.4; (2000): 3. Print.
Kondro, Wayne. “Canada must bolster its GM food regulations, not add labels: report.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 167.9; (2002): 1046-1046. Print.
Laux, Chad M., Mosher Gretchen A. and Freeman Steven A. “Factors affecting college students’ knowledge and opinions of genetically modified foods.” Journal of Technology Studies 36.2; (2008 Fall): 2-9. Print
Radas, Sonja, Teisl Mario F., and Roe Brian. “An open mind wants more: opinion strength and the desire for genetically modified food labeling policy.” The Journal of Consumer Affairs 42.3; (2008): 335-361. Print.