Recent research conducted by economists at the University of Illinois and Augustana College suggested that more consumers would agree to paying more for locally grown apples as compared to genetically modified or GMO apples. But then, when GMO apples were described not as GMO but apples having "Reduced Environmental Impact", consumers began to prefer them over the former. The study demonstrated that product labeling makes a big difference when it comes to consumer acceptance.
The said research was conducted by Michael Mazzocco, an economist at the University of Illinois and Nadia Novotorova, a marketing professor at Augustana College. When GMO products were first introduced, a lot of consumers have been calling them as "Frankenfood" due to the fact that they were being processed in laboratories. They are being bred to become more disease-resistant, hence providing a benefit in lessening chemical sprays on crops. This allows for reduced environmental impact. One thing that the study showed is that the use of GMO’s should be able to more effectively communicate its benefits in order for more consumers to accept them.
The questionnaires provided in the study didn’t require apples to be seen, handled or tasted. The apples were rated based on the description given on them. The purpose of the study is to identify the trade-offs between the attributes. Aside from the usual attributes like nutrition, taste, color, etc., more and more people are also looking into other related attributes such as the impact of such products on the environment and their life in general.
The surveys given started with the participants being given a short lesson in apple growing which included apple diseases and pests and how disease-resistant apples are developed and more. Given this information, 200 participants then rated 12 different combinations of attributes for apples between locally grown and GMO varieties. A separate set of questionnaires were also given but with an attribute described as "reduced environmental impact" instead of GMO. Aside from that, everything else remained the same.
The results showed that, by weighing different attributes and factors concerning apples, consumers showed that they are willing to pay more for reduced environmental impact. When GMO was mentioned, people tend to stay away from them and prefer local apples than those that are genetically modified.
Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Consumers Choose Locally Grown and Environmentally Friendly Apples." ScienceDaily 31 December 2009. 22 February 2010 http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/11/091123114811.htm