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A crisis of consumers’ trust in scientists and its influence on consumer attitude toward genetically modified foods

Haiyan Deng (Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China)
Ruifa Hu (Beijing Institute of Technology, Beijing, China)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 28 August 2019

Issue publication date: 4 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to examine Chinese consumers’ attitudes toward genetically modified (GM) foods and the impact that consumers’ trust in different actors – GM scientists, non-GM scientists or individuals, the government and the media, has on their attitudes.


Consumers in Beijing were surveyed about their attitudes toward GM foods and their trust in different actors. The surveys were conducted from June to July of 2015. The sample size is 1,460 people. Given the potential endogeneity of trust variable, bivariate probit models are employed to estimate the impact of trust in different actors on consumers’ attitudes.


The results show that 55 percent of the Chinese consumers are opposed to GM foods and nearly 60 percent do not trust GM scientists. In total, 42 percent of Chinese consumers trust in the government and 39 percent trust the non-GM scientists or individuals. Around 35 percent of consumers believe the misinformation on GM technology that were provided by the media. Trust in the GM scientists and trust in the government have a significant positive impact on consumers’ acceptance of GM foods while trust in the non-GM scientists or individuals and believing the misinformation have a significant negative effect on the acceptance. Nearly 70 percent of Chinese consumers acquired information about GM food safety from the internet or via WeChat. Consumers who acquired GM technology information from the internet or via WeChat are less likely to embrace GM foods than those who obtain information from other sources.


Consumer trust plays a crucial role to accept biotech products in the market and it is crucial for producers, policy makers and consumers to have faith in new biotech products. The results of this study suggest that the government and GM scientists should make more effort to gain the trust and support of consumers, while the media should provide objective reports on GM products based on scientific evidence.



The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. This research was supported by the National Science and Technology Major Project of China (2018ZX08015001).


Deng, H. and Hu, R. (2019), "A crisis of consumers’ trust in scientists and its influence on consumer attitude toward genetically modified foods", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 10, pp. 2454-2476.



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