Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Agricultural Economics

Document Type



This study investigates the effects of risk/benefit beliefs on consumer purchase intentions for genetically modified (GM) foods. A random, national, mail survey is conducted. Three main problems are addressed in the study. The first problem addressed is to analyze the relationship between consumers risk/ benefit beliefs regarding GM foods, and their willingness to buy GM crop and meat products. The second problem deals with linkages between a consumer’s risk/benefit beliefs about GM foods and willingness to pay (WTP) for GM foods with a benefit disclosure. The third problem addressed is to test a causal relationship between knowledge and trust toward GM institutions, and consumer’s purchase behavior toward GM foods. The cognitive factors associated with risk/benefit tradeoffs turn out to have significant impacts on consumer acceptance of GM foods. Results indicate that when consumers decide whether to buy GM crops and meat, the most crucial factor is food safety. Other important factors affecting consumer purchase intentions are ethical issues and concerns regarding the environment and wildlife. Depending upon product types, consumers show different levels of risk perceptions for GM foods. Results indicate that consumers have higher risk sensitivity for GM meats than GM crops, as expected. Consumers living in the Northeast region of the U.S. show a negative attitude about willingness to buy GM meat products. Benefits of GM foods on health and the environment have positive, significant impacts on the premium levels for GM potatoes. Similarly, benefits of GM foods, a positive evaluation of GM foods, and trust in GM institutions such as, government, food companies, consumer environmental groups, and scientists, are significant factors that affect consumers’ participation in the market for GM beef. Unexpectedly, however, health and environmental risk perceptions of GM foods and morality concerns stemming from unnatural way to produce them do not significantly affect either the decision to participate in the market or the premium level. The study found that consumer risk/benefit beliefs depend on their level of knowledge and credibility in GM institutions. Results also indicate that consumers perceive more risks than benefits for GM foods.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

R. Wes Harrison