Reactions to Genetically Modified Food Crops and How Perception of Risks and Benefits Influences Consumers' Information Gathering Academic Article uri icon


  • Previous research has reported strong consumer perception that genetically modified (GM) food crops may lead to adverse outcomes in a number of different areas. This is despite the widespread promulgation of the potential benefits and opportunities ascribed to the same technology by many scientists and other experts. A computer-based information gathering and evaluation task was completed by 198 adults to assess the extent to which their initial focus on the dangers or opportunities of genetic modification, or both, could be ascribed to the manner in which they gathered information on the topic (heuristically vs. systematically). Results did not confirm the hypothesis that initial focus (risks, benefits, or both) predicted ongoing information gathering and evaluation behavior. Moreover, also contrary to prediction, most participants primarily used systematic strategies when deriving their initial position, regardless of that opinion. Participants found it difficult to achieve a balanced perspective on GM food crop, even though balanced argument, as measured by order of story selection and time spent reading, was preferred as the source of information. Perceived importance is probably the most influential variable determining information gathering about issues or events to which a level of risk is attached.

publication date

  • October 2004