Factors Underlying Support or Opposition to Biotechnology Amongst Australian food Consumers and implications for retailer-led food regulation
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Despite current findings that consumers, on average, have negative attitudes to biotechnologies such as cloning and genetic engineering, considerable variability can be found in the direction and strength of these attitudes. This paper presents a path analysis of attitudinal, motivational, demographic and behavioural variables that influence consumer dispositions towards biotechnology. Among these variables, those found to be most important were: consumers' level of motivation to find natural foods; the extent to which they were motivated by convenience; whether they did the shopping for their household on a regular basis; and their sex. In terms of direct effects on dispositions to biotechnology, motivation to find natural foods had a very strong negative effect while convenience had a very strong positive effect. Sex had a moderate direct effect with women less likely to be positively disposed towards biotechnology than men. In an apparent contradiction, taking responsibility for household shopping had an equally strong positive effect on both naturalness and convenience. However, sex also played a crucial role here with a very strong effect on motivation to find natural foods (women more motivated), a minor effect on convenience (women less motivated) and a strong effect on responsibility for household shopping (women more likely to shop). The policy implications of these findings are important, given the apparent oppositional trends of some sections of the food industry to endorse biotechnology, and of the supermarkets to deliver 'clean and green' non-GM foods to consumers.